Reaction to comments by Wellsville officials
To the editor:
I am disappointed to learn of the reaction that certain Wellsville officials have had in learning that their recent CDBG application had not been funded. As my office provides guidance to the commissioners regarding the CDBG program, I thought it important to help set the record straight.
Part of my responsibility with the CDBG program is to review projects and make recommendations regarding which should be funded. The commissioners do not always take my recommendations, but they always have a reasoned approach if they go another direction.
While matching funds are not an absolute requirement, they are something that the commissioners always value, as it helps to demonstrate how much a community desires a project. This is a message that I provide to prospective applicant-communities every chance I get. I am very surprised to learn that Wellsville has not received this message from me many times over. In any event, my office is always available to help communities write the most compelling CDBG grant narrative they can.
As the June 4th article explained, the board of commissioners was asked by jurisdictions all across the county to fund over $950,000 worth of projects. I know the commissioners would love to fund all those. Unfortunately, the amount awarded to the county, using a formula developed by the federal government, only allowed them to fund $392,000 in projects. That means they were only able to satisfy about 40% of the demand from all of county’s governments.
Every effort is made to fund the most urgent projects. Effort is also made to “share the wealth” and help make sure that the money is distributed to all parts of the county, given the onerous constraints of the program.
That being said, in the last five years, Wellsville has received over $1.89 MILLION as direct investment by or programs administered or aided by the county commissioners. That is far more money than any other jurisdiction within the county. Here are just a few examples:
During the last CDBG cycle, Wellsville was awarded $340,600 for a street project. At that time, the village was aware of the benefit of putting up matching money, as they committed $46,600 toward that application.
On top of that award, the county put in $123,000 from the revolving loan fund. This money is usually treated as a loan, which must be repaid, and is typically used to give loans to businesses. However, after discussions with the state, and believing that the village did not have the ability to repay the amount, we were able to use it for the project and make it a grant, which they will not need to repay. Unfortunately, this money now won’t be available for its primary purpose: to facilitate business growth in the county.
In connection with the same road project, the county TID was able to secure a $169,000 grant from ODOT. The TID is a board that was recently created by the board of commissioners and on which I sit. Furthermore, the board of commissioners will be advancing all of the money for that grant and will pay the required match for the benefit of the village.
I would also like to share the fact that in another recent CDBG grant, the Village of Wellsville promised to bring $14,750 as match money to a $108,000 project. Unfortunately, when the project was complete, the village claimed they did not have the money to put in to the project. The county commissioners were forced to pay that amount due to Wellsville’s failure.
Wellsville has also been a huge beneficiary of the Columbiana County Land Bank and the county-led CHIP program. The land bank, for which I served as the original executive director and which is still administered by my office, was established by the board of commissioners and was originally funded with over $100,000 from the board of county commissioners. In all, the land bank has impacted 55 homes and spent over $533,000 in Wellsville–none of it has been contributed by the village. The land bank even provided the village a $5,000 grant to rehabilitate the long-neglected fountains on Broadway.
Finally, my office, under the direction of the county commissioners, successfully petitioned the state and federal government to designate the entire Village of Wellsville as an Opportunity Zone. It is the only area so designated in the county.
As I stated earlier, part of my job is to propose which CDBG projects the commissioners should fund. Some years they don’t follow my suggestion. This year they did. I stand by my recommendation and the decision of the commissioners.
Columbiana County Office of Economic Development