In the past, Pekin’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant yearly plans have come and gone with little fanfare because each year has had the same general focus — help low to moderate income residents with home repairs and build sidewalks.
But the city may change the allocation of some of the funds this year to include salaries for code enforcement officers and inspectors totaling $82,207 and the demolition of property deemed uninhabitable totalling $60,000. Those items currently are paid out of the general fund.
The Pekin City Council will consider the CDBG plans at its 5:30 p.m. Monday meeting. Currently the city is seeking public comment until the vote, which can be submitted in writing, by email, or verbally at the Monday meeting, the first public comment time, said Pamela Anderson, community development director.
The CDBG plan must be submitted to HUD no later than Aug. 16 or the city will lose the funding for Fiscal Year 2017-18. The Council could pass it as is or amend it.
New Administrative Services Director Mark Rothert said the demolitions, salaries for code enforcement and inspections, sidewalks and administrative costs are eligible items under HUD rules for the program. He said Peoria also pays some code enforcement and inspections out of CDBG funds.
The city CDBG funds include 2017-18 funding of $381,706; program income from repayment of program loans, $9,000; unobligated carryover from 2016-17, $38,355; and a FY 2016-17 carryover from the owner occupied rehab program funds for the 14th Street project, $291,209.
Additional spending include salaries for administrative costs, $78,141; program delivery rehabilitation administrative costs, $23,713; rehab emergency relief, $50,000; the 14th Street rehab of 26 houses, $246,209; rehab for three additional houses in varied Pekin locations, $45,000; grants to local charities such as the Salvation Army and the Carol House of Hope, $50,000; sidewalk repair in low to moderate income neighborhoods, $85,000. That all adds up to a total of $720,270.
Rothert said the city is spending 51 percent of the CDBG budget on owner occupied rehabilitation for low to moderate income households.
A part-time worker in Anderson’s department, who worked the construction side of things, left the city and the position will not be filled. So code enforcement, inspections and the city engineer will have to pick up some of the extra work.
Brett Bode, coordinator for Crisis Response for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, sent a letter to the Pekin Daily Times and to Mayor John McCabe, saying that the funds being allocated for demolitions, code enforcement/inspections salaries and sidewalks would be better spent helping more low to moderate income households. He said he knows the expenses are eligible under the law.
“Allocation and depletion of special targeted federal funds intended for compassionate relief for our poorest neighbors to pay general expenses of the city — the joint obligation of all citizens of Pekin — is morally indefensible,” said Bode in the letter.
Rothert said the hours of code enforcement officers and inspectors on low to moderate income homes will be documented so that CDBG funds are used only for those homes. Code enforcement officers typically visit homes after complaints by neighbors or when they see them as they drive in the neighborhood. If the resident does not comply with various orders after being given time to make repairs, they could be ticketed, said Rothert. Some residents may not have the funds to make repairs or pay the fines.
“We’re helping the neighborhood as opposed to one person in general,” said Rothert. “So I think it’s just the way you look at it. Do I give a single person a pot of money individually, or do we live as a collective in a community and a neighborhood and want to help the neighborhood out by doing more code enforcement and making the neighborhood more adhering to the code and more presentable and those things?”
As far as tickets and the inability to pay for repairs, Rothert said, “Our purpose of code enforcement is not necessarily to be punitive — it’s to get compliance. We provide people chances to correct their issues. It’s not like we go out there and (say) ‘Here’s your ticket and you pay us.’”
When asked about people who do not have the money to make repairs Rothert said, “I don’t know. I can’t tell you that for every person that’s in this community, but we certainly get a lot of calls for code compliance. And again, we live in a community that has codes and people have to abide by them.” He said the city will work with homeowners, but if the code violations become “repetitive, that’s when fines come into play sometimes. It does happen, sure.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin