Butler County projects seeking chunks of $3.7 million in federal grants

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Butler County commissioners received requests totaling $2.2 million for federal Community Development Block Grant funds and $1.25 million in HOME funds to help low- to moderate-income areas countywide.

Community Development Manager Desmond Maaytah told the commissioners Monday he expects they will receive about $1.25 million in CDBG and about $870,000 in HOME Investment Partnerships Program money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The largest CDBG request was $400,000 from Sojourner to renovate the Transitional Living building near the Care Facility in Hamilton. The committee, which is comprised of representative of the Development Department, Job and Family Services, the county engineer and Water & Sewer, recommended $200,000 for the project.

“It needs a 42-year facelift,” Sojourner CEO Scott Gehring told the Journal-News. “We’ve put a new boiler in it already, I put a new roof on it but it needs new windows, it needs new flooring and it needs new paint and hopefully just some updates like the fire system needs to be updated.”

He said for $400,000 they could have renovated all the bathrooms, kitchens and medical facilities and “done the full fix up, so this will get the basics.”

The 37-unit facility provides temporary housing and support for the severely mentally disabled.

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Maaytah said $400,000 was too steep a price as the highest CDBG request he ever remembers receiving. After Gehring told him insurance paid for the new roof — which was included in original request — the halved amount seemed reasonable.

Partnerships for Housing submitted the highest request for HOME funds at $500,000, but the committee is recommending $71,000. The request is to build eight rental units for developmentally disabled individuals, including four in Trenton and the rest in other parts of the county.

Commissioner T.C. Rogers had some concerns about this project.

“I just know that Trenton has an awful lot of apartments so rather than build new, this organization is sure that there’s not apartment buildings that can be purchased and converted,” Rogers asked. “With the cost of materials, which have gone up 80%, I wonder if they can get that done.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter asked Maaytah to investigate whether the proposed $71,000 could be used to renovate existing space for this purpose.

The county is required to give Middletown 36% of the HOME dollars because the city doesn’t receive its own federal allocation, so $300,000 will go there. Similarly, Fairfield and Oxford will receive $125,672 each for sidewalk installation.

Some of the other larger CDBG projects that were recommended include a $111,000 storm sewer replacement in Seven Mile; $78,000 for storm and drainage improvements in Millville and $70,000 for sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act in Monroe.

Another criteria for approval is how often a community has received block grants. Monroe hasn’t received county CDBG funds in the past five years.

Affordable housing has been a huge problem in the county for years and the Serve City shelter in Hamilton was looking for $277,500 from the commissioners and also asked Hamilton for $400,000 of their federal funding. Neither jurisdiction has recommended approval.

Executive Director David Hood said they want to build Shekinah II, a twin to their existing low-rent efficiency apartment building that has 26 units. He said he is not disappointed funding didn’t come through.

“This year with a total leadership change at Serve City and all of us trying to get up to speed, I think trying to tackle a project like a major building project like that might have been a bit much,” Hood said.

Maaytah said the county usually prefers projects that are basically shovel ready and this one wasn’t. He said they know these units are needed and with Hood “just getting his feet wet” the project could likely be a good candidate next year.

Hood also asked for $82,000 to renovate the current homeless shelter. Maaytah said that request fits in better with another $1.9 million the county received last year in federal CARES block grant money.

After the commissioners approve the regular CDBG and HOME funding in the next few weeks, Maaytah said he’ll have a plan for the CARES money to present to them.

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