This is a brief recap of the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council meeting that took place on December 9, 2015. The meeting began at 6:30pm after a half-hour of mingling and sharing dinner as part of the Winter Potluck.
Guest speaker Roland Lamarche, chair of the Community Assembly‘s (CA) Community Development Committee, talked about proposed changes to how Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding is allocated for sidewalk installation and repair. He began by noting how Spokane’s CDBG program was meant to target neighborhoods with the greatest need, but that hinders the effectiveness of the current sidewalk program.
George Dahl then gave a presentation about the program, its shortcomings, and potential remedies. Tim Musser, our neighborhood’s representative on the CA Community Development Committee, also provided input about how the sidewalk maintenance is often overlooked by landlords in low-income neighborhoods.
[EDIT: Here is George’s presentation. Here is an FAQ for the proposed changes to the CDBG sidewalk program. And here are the minutes for the CA/CD Committee meeting at which the proposal was decided. All are PDF format.]
According to municipal code, the repair of sidewalks is the responsibility of the adjacent homeowners. Neighborhoods have collectively received about $700,000 per year to help address poverty through capital-improvement projects, and approximately $500,000 of that has been used for sidewalk repair. Yet the areas that qualify for CDBG funding are determined by census and change each year. It is therefore not uncommon for low-income individuals with dangerous sidewalks to have wealthier neighbors in their area who disqualify them from CDBG funding, and vice versa.
The committee’s proposal is to remove the area-specific qualifications for sidewalk funding and allow households to individually qualify if they earn less than $36,150 (if a one-person household). The higher an owner’s income relative to this benchmark, the higher the share of the cost they would be responsible for. Priority would be given to the disabled, the elderly, and the lower income.
The typical cost of a repair ranges between $1,600 on the low end and $3,000 on the high end, with the higher expenses usually being associated with larger tree roots. With the cost being shared by the owner, there may be a disincentive for “extravagant” requests that their entire sidewalk be repaired, and if only the damaged portions were repaired, the funding could theoretically be distributed across many more properties.
This proposed process is all very new and in need of further refinement. Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to e-mail George Dahl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay Cousins, Emerson-Garfield’s CA representative, reported that the CA will meet on the first Thursday of each month at 5:30pm starting in January 2016.
Within days of last month’s neighborhood council meeting, it was announced that the Cedar Street sidewalk project would be funded by Photo Red dollars. It was proposed that the $11,010 of funding it was due to receive be reallocated to the asphalt walking path project in Emerson Park, thus ensuring its completion. The council voted unanimously to approve that motion. The neighborhood council members then discussed possible CDBG projects to consider in the future.
The council also voted not to meet in January 2016, per custom, pushing the next meeting to Wednesday, February 10.
“Cleanup Czar” Karl Boldt reiterated that Faith Bible Church is still very eager to host another cleanup project next autumn.
On Monday, December 28 at 5:45pm, the West Central Community Center will be hosting a training session on the Neighborhood Notification process.
Laura Schlangen reported on the Corbin Senior Activity Center. The Spokane Magic Club fundraiser was well attended and netted the center almost $300. A Christmas luncheon themed “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” will take place on Friday, December 11 beginning at 11:30am. The Tap Grandmas will perform a holiday show on Wednesday, December 16 at 6pm.
The meeting adjourned at 7:30pm with enthusiastic holiday well-wishing.