Almost half Hamilton’s community grant funds to go to fire equipment, upgrades

For the second year, almost half the federal Community Development Block Grant funds Hamilton receives because many of its residents have low or moderate incomes are to be spent on the city’s fire stations and their equipment.

Under the proposed spending plan that city contractor Tomika Hedrington recently presented to Hamilton City Council, city administrators are proposing to spend $700,000 on the fire department during the federal budget year that begins May 1.

Some $500,000 is proposed for fire engine replacement, with $200,000 going to improvements at Fire Station 25, located at 335 N. Erie Blvd. That is 47.6 percent of the CDBG funding Hedrington said is proposed to be spent this coming budget year.

During the 2019-20 budget year, which will end April 30, $675,000, or 46.7 percent of CDBG spending, went to the fire department. Of that, $300,000 went to improvements at Fire Station 24, located at 605 Main St.; $300,000 went for fire engine replacement; $40,000 went toward improvements at Station 25 and 26, which is located at 651 Laurel Ave.; and $35,000 was spent on life squad equipment replacement.

There’s competition for the CDBG funding. For this coming year, the city was able to fund 71.9 percent of the money requested by various social agencies that try to do things like provide programming for low-income children, provide transportation to jobs and help homeless people transition to stable housing. The year earlier, Hamilton funded 55.3 percent of requested amounts.

Alfred Barron, a resident of Hamilton’s struggling Second Ward neighborhood, recently attended a city council meeting to inquire about the procedures for giving input for CDBG funding because he was disappointed with what he considered a low amount of money going to that and other impoverished areas of the city.

“I’m sayin’ OK, what development is supposed to be happening in the Second Ward? I don’t see that,” he said.

He would rather see money going to help poorer areas of the city, with Hamilton finding other sources of money for its capital needs.

“The fire department has a budget, correct?” Barron said. “They’re asking me to tighten my bootlaces and give more. What are they cutting back in that department, the fire department?”

City officials, who note firefighters and emergency-squad ambulances serve the entire city, and perhaps more so the poorer areas, have said the city went many years without replacing fire equipment and making needed repairs to fire stations. This is an opportunity to catch up on that, they have said.

Hamilton is an “entitlement city,” and able to receive CDBG funds, because more than half its residents have incomes modest enough compared with the Cincinnati metropolitan area to meet federal guidelines, said the city’s finance director, Dave Jones. For a family of four the income level is $65,050 or less — or $52,050 for a family of two.

City council is expected to approve the CDBG spending plan at Wednesday’s meeting.

Proposed CDBG funding

Here are some of the categories of needs that were requested for funding, along with the amounts that were recommended the city of Hamilton grant for the coming Community Development Block Grant budget year, which starts May 1:

  • Clearance and demolition of buildings to remove blight: $225,000 requested; $165,500 recommended;
  • Housing needs: $159,960 requested; $59,967 recommended;
  • Public facilities and improvements, including fire equipment: $1.24 million requested; $675,000 recommended;
  • Economic development: $330,000 requested; $20,000 recommended;
  • Public services, such as job connection shuttles, Booker T. Washington Community Center programming; a Second Ward redevelopment project and programs that help students after school or during the summer: $372,000 requested; $193,000 recommended.

Source: City of Hamilton

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