Commission pushes decision to Monday on updated CBDG plan, new projects

Since the 30-day comment period on a proposed amendment to the city’s Community Development Block Grant annual plan doesn’t end until Friday, Commissioner Owen Robinson said he wasn’t comfortable approving the amendment.

The decision has been pushed to April 9 at 8:30 a.m. in a special commission meeting.

Commissioners Bill Bronson and Tracy Houck recused themselves from the vote, though Houck initially seconded the motion to approve the amendment. She also later asked a question during the discussion.

New projects considered for CDBG funding after some removed for conflict of interest concerns

The amendment would update some language and remove project that had been awarded CDBG grants but have to be removed due to conflict of interest issues and a review by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City revising CDBG annual action plan, public comment period open through April 6

The vote would have also added new projects to use CDBG funds that must be spent by May 2 to meet HUD’s timeliness requirements.

Robinson asked if they could wait until the April 17 meeting to vote, but the timing is extremely tight to spend the money before the city loses those funds, said Craig Raymond, city planning director. Raymond said the city doesn’t send any of the updated information until after the comment period ends.

City sent response letter to HUD on conflict of interest issues, awaiting response

For example, if the commission approves the awards as proposed, the recipients have to secure vendors, execute contracts and otherwise deal with the paperwork to actually spend the money by May 2, some city staffers told The Electric.

“This is a really, really tight timeline,” Raymond told commissioners on when the city receives the timeliness notification from HUD and the expenditure deadline.

He said he’d prefer a special meeting so that there was more time to get the projects approved and the funds spent before losing the CDBG dollars.

Mayor issues apology on CDBG process; staff addresses recent HUD letter 

Greg Doyon, the city manager, suggested that commissioners approve the amendment and new projects with a condition related to the potential public comments that could be submitted by Friday.

As of Tuesday night, the city had received no public comments on the amendment.

Robinson said he would vote on Monday in support of the amendment to the CDBG action plan, but wanted to wait to do so until the comment period ended.

Survey is first step in city’s revamped CDBG process

Sheila Rice, speaking as a private citizen who recently retired as executive director of NeighborWorks Great Falls, told commissioners that this year would be the first time in the city’s CDBG history that new home construction isn’t included in the grants.

NWGF has been awarded funds for the high school house program, but that funding was pulled over complaints of a conflict on interest issues with Bronson since his wife works at NWGF.

Rice asked commissioners and city staff to include housing construction for the CDBG funding going forward.

“If we’re going to have community development, we have to include new homes in that equation,” Rice said.