Centre makes plans for $382K in CDBG funds

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County Commissioners have approved a contract totaling $382,213 for community development projects in the boroughs of Bellefonte and Millheim.

These two projects, handicap barrier removal in Bellefonte’s Masullo and Governors parks and water transmission main replacement in the north side of Millheim, will be funded through a 2017 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

“This funding is vital to replacing outdated infrastructure and improving the quality of life in our community,” State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre said in a press release. “I was happy to support the Centre County commissioners in this regard.”

He added that Clinton and Centre counties have been fortunate to receive significant CDBG funding over the years and this award is no exception.

“As a legislator, it is important to me to ensure taxpayer dollars are used wisely and reinvested back into our community,” Hanna said. “The economic improvements we make today are sure to have lasting impacts in our community for many, many years.”

According to Matt Milliron, county senior planner, the contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development allocates $81,733 for the Bellefonte projects and $231,700 for the Millheim project. The additional $68,780 will be set aside for administration of the grant.

At the Tuesday meeting of the Centre County Commissioners, Milliron said that bid letting for the Millheim project will take place in approximately two to three weeks.

Milliron also discussed changes to how the CDBG funding will be awarded to the county in the future.

While counties used to have five years to spend the grant money, that number has recently been reduced to four. Milliron said that change takes effect with the contract for federal fiscal year 2017.

“It puts the pressure on the counties to select projects that are going to move and get them going,” he said.

In addition, grantees are now strongly advised to fund only one to two projects per fiscal year.

“In the past, we maybe intended to fund four or five smaller projects,” Milliron said. “Obviously, there’s a lot for them to review and a lot for us to administer, so they wanted to try to increase the process.”

Commissioner Steve Dershem brought up the concern of having three or more projects the county would want to fund.

He said, “Many municipalities bring us many valid projects, so it would be difficult for me to just say ‘Okay, these are one or two a year.'”

Milliron further explained that it is a suggestion and that counties that choose three or four projects just won’t have the contracts as quickly. Counties with only one project will have their applications reviewed first, with two-project counties having second priority.

Currently, the county is looking at suggestions for projects for federal fiscal year 2018 CDBG funding. Milliron added that the federal government recently approved an increase of roughly 10 percent in the CDBG housing budget and that it can be assumed that Centre County will receive an extra $28,000 in funds on top of the anticipated $282,000.

According to a press release from State Rep. Hanna’s office Centre County commissioners must now complete all applicable program requirements in order to begin the requisition of project funds. Prevailing wage requirements are generally applicable to projects using grant funds toward construction, demolition, reconstruction, alteration, repair work, renovations, build-out and installation of machinery and equipment in excess of $25,000.

The CDBG Program is administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development which provides federal funds to develop viable communities through modest housing and suitable living environments. Funds are also used to expand economic opportunities geared to low-and moderate-income people and to improve infrastructure critical to community health and welfare.