Hamilton will spend federal funds to help low-income residents with housing, update fire stations

Hamilton officials are finalizing plans for spending federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, aimed at helping the poor, and HOME Investment Partnership Program funds, the federal money aimed at helping low-and very-low-income increase home ownership.

Of the $1.44 million Hamilton plans to spend this year, $415,992 will be spent on minor home repairs and other help for about 51 households that fit the low-income and extremely-low-income categories.

The next biggest spending item is $735,147 in fire station repairs, with plans to improve stations at 605 Main St., 335 N. Erie Blvd. and 651 Laurel Ave. in Lindenwald.

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Following that, the next biggest category is $193,000 on a variety of public services, including those that help youth and senior citizens, provide transportation to under-served youth, transportation that connects people with jobs, and a pilot program that will help homeless people transition to permanent housing.

Among other things, $165,500 is to be spent on special code-enforcement to eliminate blight, $117,473 is to help some 19 households make home down-payments, $24,995 will be spent from Hamilton’s general fund to rehab and resell a single-family house for a low-income family and $20,000 in CDBG money will help viable for-profit businesses expand.

The spending plan recently was discussed by the Hamilton Planning Commission. Hamilton City Council will hold a public hearing on the Annual Action Plan for the city, which outlines the proposed spending, at 6 p.m. today. The council also will consider the ordinance approving the spending for a first time at the meeting, with a vote on the proposed spending likely at its Feb. 27 meeting.

Some feel the plans for such spending should receive more input from the public. City officials responded that they have used several approaches to get feedback from citizens.

Hamilton real-estate agent Phil Morrical said the city used to have a formal process that sought input from the city’s business districts over a period of months.

“We used to have the Rediscover Hamilton group, that was the business districts, and we used to sit down monthly and talk about what was going on in the districts, so we could spread the buzz if something new was going on,” Morrical said.

Among the business districts represented were the downtown area, Lindenwald, the Second- and Fourth wards, representatives of the Ohio 4 corridor, Main Street/Rossville and German Village.

“Each year we would go over the CDBG monies coming in, and we’d discuss projects each of the districts wanted to do,” he said.

Rather than fighting each other for projects at City Council, the business districts decided to discuss the projects among themselves and try to reach consensus on which projects were most deserving, Morrical said.

That system of input stopped four or five years ago, he said.

“It was a very great process,” Morrical said.

Hamilton Finance Director Dave Jones said the current city staff that handles CDBG funds “was not involved and unaware of the process Mr. Morrical refers to.”

“However,” he added, “any of the city’s business districts are welcome to join in the process and the Neighborhood Development Division staff are always looking to increase participation and welcome any input.”

He noted Neighborhood Development staff has doubled out the number of surveys it mails out, and wrote both English and Spanish versions of the surveys. The staff also added an online version of the survey. They also held seven community meetings to discuss the plans, he said.

How Hamilton will spend federal funds to help the poor

  • Minor home repairs and other assistance for 51 low-income households
  • Improvements to 3 fire stations in low-income areas
  • Public services including transportation and helping homeless
  • Code enforcement to eliminate blight.
  • Down payments on 19 households for those in need

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