Pottsville considers using CDBG funds for downtown sidewalks

Republican & Herald (Pottsville, PA), 2014-07-08

July 08 --The City of Pottsville may spend part of its 2014 federal Community Development Block Grant to repair sidewalks and curbs on West Market Street downtown, city Administrator Thomas A. Palamar said Monday.

"I think the area that's the worst there is the one near Roma Tailor. That's a bad spot there," Palamar said, referring to the north side of the 300 block.

It's a weather-beaten patchwork of numerous layers of cement and concrete, some of which is crumbling.

The city council is still deciding how to use the $300,000 it expects to receive in CDBG funds this year. The public will be invited to offer comments and suggestions at two public hearings, the first of which is slated for 6 p.m. July 14 , right before the council's regular meeting. The date for the second hearing has not been set, Palamar said.

Every year, the federal government gives the city an estimated $300,000 in CDBG funds, Palamar said.

"Over the years, the funding has decreased. So we have to be a lot more thoughtful about what we're doing. That's why these public hearings are important for us to prioritize," Palamar said.

In 2013, the city received $300,000 .

According to the website for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development , CDBG eligible projects include demolition, rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures, construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets and neighborhood centers.

"Right now, we're just talking about possibilities," Palamar said.

The city council will consider using funding to improve a section of the downtown business district, the 100 to 600 blocks of West Market Street .

In April, the city and the Pottsville Area Development Corp. started the first phase of its downtown anti-blight campaign with an evaluation of 61 buildings on that six-block stretch. It included a public survey conducted by PADCO and assessment of those buildings conducted by the Pottsville Blight and Nuisance Task Force .

There are two upcoming community summits regarding the corridor. The first will be held from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. July 16 in the second-floor conference room of the Pottsville Free Public Library , 215 W. Market St. The second will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. July 17 at the library's second-floor conference room.

Both summits will involve discussions of ways to improve the corridor and develop an action plan, Amy S. Burkhart , PADCO executive director, said last week.

People interested in one or both of the summits should register by calling PADCO at 570-628-4647, Burkhart said.

The city council will probably use the CDBG funds on a few projects.

"We'll probably allocate some for demolition," Palamar said.

The city is still in the process of completing a demolition project it started in 2013, the removal of seven blighted properties at a cost of $128,670 .

The city financed that project using funds from its 2011 and 2012 federal CDBG accounts, plus the city planned to lein the cost of the demolitions to the owners of the seven properties, Palamar said.

The city council may also use CDBG funds to improve its parks.

"We haven't decided whether or not we're going to put into the JFK Recreation Complex . We were going to do some electrical work there a couple years ago, but we flip-flopped money and put it toward some other project we were in the throes of doing. There's always a chance we'll put some money into JFK. But it's hard to say, between the curbs and sidewalks and projects related to the West Market Street anti-blight initiative and demolition," Palamar said.


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