April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain facing July 17 deadline for grant money

LORAIN — Four municipalities, a government agency and a nonprofit organization may be working together to apply for up to $20 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program money as part of the program’s second phase — if Council approves legislation in time.

The NSP allows for the purchase and rehab, or demolition, of vacant foreclosed properties that are considered blight.

On Monday night, Council sent an ordinance to committee that would allow the city to enter into an agreement with the Elyria, Vermilion, Sheffield Lake, Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority and Lorain County Community Action Agency and to apply for the money. The deadline for the application is July 17, said Community Development Department Chief Planner Don Romancak.

Council didn’t pass the ordinance because they were upset at being given the information at the last minute, and at least one member expressed concerns about the ability of the six different groups to work together.

Romancak’s explanation that it took nearly all of the 2½ weeks he’s had since notification of the second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding to get enough groups together to qualify for the grant wasn’t enough to convince Council to take action Monday.

Councilman Greg Holcomb, D-6th Ward, backed Community Development up, citing his own involvement with federal stimulus grant deadlines that were ridiculously close — sometimes with as short as two weeks to apply — and also urged Council to take action Monday night.

“I can guarantee you the other parities involved, they’ve been talking to their boards about this,” said Councilman Dan Given, D-at large. “The concern is this multijurisdictional unit. We can’t along from one floor to the next in this building. … Information has got to be more free-flowing if you want this stuff to be passed.”

The minimum criteria required to apply for the funding made forming the consortium necessary, Romancak said. Cities looking to purchase and demolish or rehab properties had to show a minimum of 75 instances of acquiring property, demolishing property and rehabbing property. Going back two years, Romancak said Lorain didn’t have the necessary 75 instances, so he began searching for partners to apply along with Lorain.

Elyria City Council did pass legislation Monday that will allow it to work with the group and apply for the money.

“We came to the same conclusion Lorain did, which was that it would require the city of Elyria to participate with several other communities in order to be eligible for the funds,” said Elyria Mayor Bill Grace. “We welcomed (Lorain’s) invitation, and we’re looking forward to working together to hopefully successfully (receive) millions of dollars to improve our respective communities.”

Bill Gardner, grand coordinator for Sheffield Lake, said Sheffield Lake will probably pass its legislation at its meeting tonight.

“We don’t anticipate any problems with this,” Gardner said. “We’ll be part of it. It gives us an opportunity to be part of it where we’d probably never be able to qualify on our own. … It’s a good opportunity to keep our housing stock in good condition.”

Lorain Mayor Tony Krasienko hopes the delay won’t last beyond the next meeting.

“My main concern is not to jeopardize millions of dollars that are sorely needed,” he said.

Service Director Robert Gilchrist said that if Council ultimately passes the legislation, the grant application is ready to go.

“When we get information, we try our best to get that information to council,” Gilchrist said. “We’ll work within the time frame Council’s allotted us. That’s all we can do. … This grant allows communities with similar problems to come together with a common solution.”

The Federal Programs Committee will discuss the legislation at 6 p.m. Monday, followed by a special call Council meeting.

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7144 or acastelli@chroniclet.com.