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City of Martinsburg in line to get federal grant money

August 12, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg officials learned Monday that the city has been designated an "entitlement city," meaning nearly half a million dollars a year will be granted to use for projects that benefit low- to moderate-income residents, according to city officials.

"This is big news for the city of Martinsburg," said City Manager Mark Baldwin.

Funding, estimated to be around $493,000 a year, comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of their Community Development Block Grant program, Baldwin said.

Before receiving any money, city officials must come up with a five-year plan that includes input from citizens. That plan can later be modified to fit the community's needs, Baldwin said.

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Projects that could be funded with the money include street, sidewalk or curb repairs; buying property for public purposes; improving water and sewer systems; downtown revitalization; and special economic development activities. Grant money also can be used to pay administrative costs needed to manage the program, Baldwin said.

"Those are just to name a few. The list goes on," Baldwin said.

At least 70 percent of the funds must be used to benefit low- to moderate-income residents, Baldwin said.

"We can now zero in on certain areas," said Martinsburg Mayor George Karos.

Some details of the program need to be worked out. Martinsburg officials will meet soon with HUD officials, Baldwin said.

Because projects must benefit low- to moderate-income residents, Baldwin said surveys will be done before money is spent. If city officials wanted to repair a certain street, for example, residents in that neighborhood would need to fill out a survey that asks their income, Baldwin said.

The city does not have to match any of the grant money and the number of years the city could receive the funds has not been determined.

Martinsburg did not need to apply for the program. Rather, Baldwin said, the city was declared an entitlement city based on population data from the 2000 Census and its designation as part of the new Hagerstown-Martinsburg Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Taxpayers hoping the grant money might lighten their wallets will be disappointed. Taxes and other fees cannot be reduced or eliminated because the grant money is to be treated as an extra funding source, Karos said.

Martinsburg was one of 81 new entitlement grantees across the country, according to information from HUD.

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