Making the case for Community Block Grants

Villages seek infrastructure improvements, town hopes to enhance senior, handicapped services

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WARWICK — The villages of Florida and Warwick are seeking Community Development Block Grants to subsidize waterline and sidewalk projects while the Town of Warwick is requesting block grant money to enhance services for seniors and the handicapped.

The Orange County Community Development Program has been allotted $1.4 million in block grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 2015. Since the county began administering the program 32 years ago, Orange County towns and villages have received $58.9 million.

The county is allocating $950,000 in 2015 to municipalities, which have until May 31 to submit grant applications. Each municipality can submit only one application per year and grant awards are capped at $125,000. Successful recipients will be notified in October and receive the money in spring 2015.

Community Block Grant money must be spent on local projects or programs that meet one or more of nine criteria, including infrastructure improvement, economic development, housing rehabilitation, the provision of public services and special projects for the elderly or handicapped.

Village of Warwick
Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard said the village has "traditionally" used the grants to improve and maintain sidewalks, such as those recently repaved on Spring Street.

The best use of the block grants is as a subsidy for underway projects that already have an established revenue stream, Newhard told village trustees during their April 21 meeting. "Take the money that we have" dedicated to a project "and fuse it" with grant money, he said.

Newhard said if village residents can think of a better use of the block grant other than sidewalk improvements, he's open to suggestions. "We'd love to hear your ideas," he said.

Village of Florida

Florida Village Trustees expressed no doubt during their April 28 meeting what they would do with $125,000 in block grant money: Excavate and replace the waterline that parallels Route 94 from Jane Street to the Goshen town line.

The project is already underway and "will take years to compete," Mayor James Pawliczek Sr. said, so every little bit helps. "Wherever (the village money) stops, that is where we will continue" with the block grant subsidy.

Although annual awards are capped at $125,000, this year the county is offering three-year grants totaling $375,000 - or $125,000 annually for three years. Of the $950,000 in community block grants the county is allocating for 2015, $450,000 will be issued in one-year grants and $450,000 in three-year grants.

Pawliczek said he prefers to stick with the one-year option. "If you get the three-year program, you are out for three years," he said, noting three-year grant recipients are ineligible to apply for other grants during that span.

During those three years, grants may exceed the current $125,000 cap, Pawliczek said. "Seems feasible to go for a (one-year grant) and come back every year for a little more," he said. "We're safer off going for pieces."

Town of Warwick

Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said the town has different priorities than the villages. The town's demographics - relatively high average income, relatively low population density - means "traditionally, the emphasis has been on senior-related projects" when it comes to seeking community development subsidies.

The town board heard from representatives of the Warwick Valley Community Center and the Winslow Therapeutic Riding Center regarding potential subsidies for renovations and upgrades.

WVCC Board Member Ed Maddelena told the town board during its April 24 meeting that the community center building needs electrical work, new paint, concrete, roofs and windows as part of a $150,000 renovation.

Virginia G. Mazza of the Winslow Therapeutic Riding Center, a non-profit organization that offers injured and ill children and adults therapeutic horse rides - a unique therapy that draws people to Warwick - said her organization needs $150,000 to make repairs and upgrades to its "new wonderful facility that is now 12 years old."

By John Haughey

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