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Block grants help Pa. water systems

November 29, 2000

Block grants help Pa. water systems



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With the help of two Community Development Block Grants in the last two years, Orrstown, Pa., residents now have strong enough water pressure to do their laundry.

Water and sewer projects like the one in Orrstown are the types of proposals that could receive grants this spring from the Community Development Block Grant program, which involves federal money administered at the local level, said Phil Wolgemuth, a Franklin County planner.

The money is funneled through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to the state Department of Community and Economic Development to counties and towns in Pennsylvania.

This year the Franklin County Commissioners will have about $450,000 to dole out for projects in low- or moderate-income communities.

The Borough of Chambersburg will hand out about $300,000 through the program, said Gary Norris, a borough planning and zoning officer.

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Franklin County will accept applications through Jan. 26 for projects concerning direct system improvements and development toward existing communities, public facility projects that address sewer and water needs, and projects that improve handicap access to public buildings, Wolgemuth said.

"In the past couple of years we have predominantly funded water and sewer system improvements. Last year we granted three different entities funding, including Mont Alto, Dry Run and Orrstown, to improve their water systems," he said.

"People in Orrstown couldn't do laundry because of a lack of water pressure," Wolgemuth said. "These grants allow local communities to determine what their needs are for the money. Often, federal and state programs don't allow you that flexibility."

The commission will hold a public meeting Feb. 1 to allow the applicants to come in and talk about their proposals. Prior to a Feb. 15 public hearing, the commission will rank the applications, Wolgemuth said.

The projects the commission approves will be sent to the state for approval and the county will award the funds in the summer, he said.

Traditionally, the county has received between five and seven applications and awarded large grants to two or three of them.

In 1999, Mont Alto received $194,000, Dry Run $110,000 and Orrstown $70,000 for their water projects, Wolgemuth said.

"It's not a lot of money, but we've made some headway with a lot of water and sewer issues," Wolgemuth said. "They are basic needs, to be able to turn on a tap and get water or flush a toilet. It's nice to be able to help with that."

Wolgemuth said the standard of eligibility for the grants is 51 percent of households in a community must be under the low- to moderate-income threshold. To fall in that category, two people must have a combined income under $26,900 or four people an income below $33,600.

"We could definitely use more money, but we try to get the biggest bang for the buck," Wolgemuth said.

Chambersburg has not started soliciting grants yet, Norris said, but the borough will likely hold a kick-off meeting next month for the various agencies who have received money through the program in the past.

The borough typically funds seven or eight proposals of about 12 to 14 requests, he said.

In recent years, Chambersburg has awarded grants to the nonprofit organization Building Our Pride in Chambersburg to acquire its building, the Chambersburg Hispanic Center and the borough Housing and Rehabilitation Program, which offers low-and moderate-income families loans and grants, Norris said.

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