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Local Government Urban Development Starts at Home


BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's BOCC meeting , a Five Year Consolidated Plan and a One Year Action Plan was brought before the commission for viewing. It described how the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), supporting the plan, was going to be spent. 

The Consolidated Plan identified the priorities and strategies needed for the five year project. Jason Smith, a consultant who works with Manatee County on grant applications, presented a specific outline of the intended goals. To keep the CDBG funds coming in the remainding years, how the funds are spent in the first year is very important. 

There are guidelines laid out by HUD and HOME (Home Investment Partnerships), who also contributes funding, that insist the funds go to urban development and not to other government expenditures. Suzie Dobbs, Manatee's Community Development Manager, was there to identify just what the funds could be used for.

Urban Development is a broad-spectrum term, and the laundry list of projects pretty much absorbed the full amount available the first year. But as commissioners pondered the county's needs, there was some question to how much street improvements could trump human necessities. 

Dobbs explained there would have to be some give and take, no matter where the money goes, and as long as the commission knew that and gave direction, she would try and make it all work out. Some of the recommendations included resurfacing roadways at the McCollum Lakes development, library improvements, transitional housing for ex-offenders and flood drainage improvements (click here for the full report; recommendations begin on page 205)

Commissioner McClash made a motion to direct the max percentage of money earmarked for "Public Services," allowing it to be funneled in the direction of elderly needs, and suggested, "If we have to do without a few sidewalks somewhere, that's okay." None of the other commissioners really objected to funding those who were finding it hard to get enough to eat, but Whitmore and Bustle were not in favor of making the commitment at the moment. There is over $430,000 in sidewalk improvement projects in the recomended plan.

This started a little struggle between Commissioner McClash and Commissioners Whitmore and Bustle. McClash asked," Why would we spend money on a sidewalk if an elderly person needs help just to go to the bathroom." Both Whitmore and Bustle accused McClash of playing "dirty pool", but chose not to go along with the priority McClash suggested. 

There is a timeline the decisions would have to be made by. A  mandatory public comment period of 30 days was scheduled between the first week of May and June, so the understanding of priorities would need to be submitted soon. The workshop, which Whitmore suggested would be the better place to discuss their differences, would not come until the 15th of May, making it more difficult to figure out in time. 

Dobbs said she did have a little wiggle room and could stipulate in the Public Comment notice that some modifications could occur. A motion to move forward to the workshop with the idea just how the money would be spent was approved unanimously.


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