San Marcos Community Initiatives Administrator Janis Hendrix discusses federal funding options with the San Marcos City Council. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
The San Marcos City Council divided $575,181 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds amongst two city departments and two non-profit organizations at this week’s meeting.
The council allocated the $575,181 thusly:
• $110,000 for rehabilitation and lead paint testing of seven houses, sponsored by Southside Community Center, a local nonprofit organization.
• $173,320 for construction of a band shelter, park benches, small domino pavilion, 12 parking spaces, sidewalks, fencing, and other park amenities and construction oversight for phase 2 of the Eddie Durham Park project. The project applicant was City of San Marcos Community Services-Parks Department. The park, to be located on MLK Drive adjacent to the Cephas House, is currently being designed and may be used for future Juneteenth celebrations, among other activities.
• $110,861 for at least 12 new first-time homebuyers program loans, plus inspection fees and related costs. The project applicant was City of San Marcos Development Services Department.
• $46,000 for professional services for designing an expansion of the San Marcos Senior Citizens Center, a city-owned facility built with CDBG funds. The project applicant was Community Action, Inc. of Hays, Caldwell and Blanco Counties, a nonprofit organization.
• $35,000 for the construction of nine new parking spaces to accommodate the expansion of the San Marcos Senior Citizens Center. The project applicant was Community Action.
• $100,000 for administering the city’s CDBG program. For example, the funds will pay the salary of San Marcos Community Initiatives Administrator Janis Hendrix and allow her to hire consultants and interns or assistants. This year marked the first in which she hired interns, two Texas State students.
The council also set spending priorities for the next five years’ worth of CDBG projects. The prioritized needs identified in the five-year consolidated plan (FY 2010-2014), currently under development, are housing, public facilities/infrastructure/transportation, program administration, and clearance (demolition of dilapidated houses).
The spending priorities were created after public meetings in March, a stakeholders workshop, and a community survey in which 129 people participated. The old five-year plan’s spending priorities were housing, public facilities and improvements, economic development for job creation, and clearance.
The city will solicit public comment during July and August regarding the council’s CDBG fund allocations and the five-year plan. The city council will formally adopt the five-year plan and 2010-2014 Citizen Participation Plan in August. The citizen participation plan helps the city fulfill the federal requirement that citizens be involved in prioritizing and planning CDBG activities.
CDBG funds, granted to the city by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), must be used for projects that either 1) benefit low- to moderate-income residents, 2) prevent or eliminate blight, or 3) address an urgent threat to the community’s health or welfare. The projects must be sponsored by particular kinds of non-profit organizations or city departments.
The federal government defines “low and moderate income” as being no more than 80 percent of the area median income. Hendrix said HUD estimates the median income in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos Metropolitan Statistical Area to be $75,800, though she said “the reality for San Marcos is more like $45,000.”
The city received more $815,550 in CDBG applications this year, which is more than the city could fund. Hendrix said that is normal. The city received $527,099. The city has received as much as $749,000 in 1994.
After the council allocates the money, Hendrix will publicize the projects for 30 days, during which time the public can offer comments. Hendrix must send the projects to HUD by Aug. 15 for final approval.