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Martinsburg must spend grant money, HUD says

February 16, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg officials have until early May to spend some of the funding obtained from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's block grant program to remain in compliance with the terms of the program.

City officials are being asked by HUD to spend $105,128 by May 2 in order to meet the time requirements of the agency's Community Development Block Grant program, according to a Jan. 20 program review letter from HUD Charleston (W.Va.) Field Office Director George Rodriguez to Mayor George Karos.

To date, only $233,903 or 24 percent of the $960,139 in CDBG funds that have been reserved since 2004 when the city was designated an entitlement community have been spent, Rodriguez wrote.

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"This is an issue," Rodriguez wrote. "While the city should be able to meet (a test for timeliness for 2006), the City's Line of Credit balance is very large after two years and it needs to be reduced."

Under the terms of the program, the amount of undisbursed grant funds available to a recipient community cannot be more than 1.5 times the grant award for the current program year.

"The goal should be to spend in a program year what the city receives in a program year," Rodriguez said.

Martinsburg was awarded $495,000 the first year of its designation as an entitlement community. In 2005, the city was awarded $465,139, said Community Development Director Patricia McMillan.

This year's allocation will be about $414,000, said McMillan, adding she expects to see significant draw downs from the grant amount in March, two months ahead of HUD's timeliness deadline.

"We didn't spend down much of the project funding because it was in the early stages," she said. "I don't expect it to be a problem."

Almost all of the 2004 award and nearly $250,000 of the 2005 grant were spent on a sanitary sewer project for East John and South Water streets, as well as for a project to replace the East John Street Bridge over Tuscarora Creek.

The city also allocated $78,000 from the 2005 award for a number of other projects, including $25,000 to renovate the Martin Luther King Jr. Park, $10,000 for kitchen renovations for the city-owned building operated by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Boys and Girls Club, $18,000 for a windows and furnace replacement for the Shenandoah Women's Center, and $25,000 for an emergency housing repairs fund for low-income homeowners.

The balance of the awards were allocated for administrative costs, McMillan said.

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