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Poloncarz identifies 13 projects for community block grants, warns fed shutdown could delay funds

WBFO file photo

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced Friday that 13 projects have been awarded Community Development Block Grant funds. But there's a possible snag. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development provides the money for these grants and, Poloncarz warns, a lengthy federal government shutdown might jeopardize the projects to be funded.

Erie County's application to HUD will recommend a $1.5 million commitment from Erie County with an additional $1.46 million leveraged through local funds and in-kind resources.

"The block grants run the gamut from providing rural transit service to assisting with senior center improvements, as well as road and ADA-compliant sidewalk improvements in various communities across Erie County," Poloncarz said. "It's just one way we can create stronger, better communities that are accessible to all through these Community Development Block Grants."

The projects identified as recipients of 2019 Community Block Grant Money were:

  • ·         Village of Lancaster - Smart Growth Improvements – Central Avenue -$201,215
  • ·         City of Lackawanna –Milling and Paving of Holbrook Street - $100,000
  • ·         City of Tonawanda – Gibson and Wheeler Street Sanitary Sewer Lining - $100,000
  • ·         Town of Brant – Senior Center Improvements Project - $100,000
  • ·         Town of North Collins – Lawtons Waterline Installation Project - $100,000
  • ·         Town of Evans – Senior Center Renovations -$100,000
  • ·         Town of West Seneca – Road Milling and Paving of Emporium Avenue, Eldred Avenue and Gordon Avenue - $100,000
  • ·         Town of Boston – ADA Modifications to North Boston Town Park Restroom   Building  - $100,000
  • ·         Town of Lancaster – Senior Center and ADA Improvements - $51,413
  • ·         Town of Sardinia – Manion Park ADA Restroom Improvements - $100,000
  • ·         Village of Springville – Well #1 Replacement - $100,000
  • ·         Village of Gowanda – Hollywood Theater Renovations - $100,000
  • ·         Various Communities - Rural Transit Service: $270,000

But while announcing which projects were named as awardees, Poloncarz added a warning that the ongoing federal government shutdown could leave the funding uncertain. If the federal government remains halted, so too is the block grant funding.
"We rely on the individuals at HUD to work with us to ensure that these funding sources continue," he said. "If it was another two or three weeks of shutdown, and these individuals were not working, we would have to stop our Community Development Block Grant program and the projects that we intend to fund this year, until such time as we receive the funds from the federal government."

The chances of ending that federal government shutdown were no better Friday, when Senator Charles Schumer said President Donald Trump, who insists a Mexican border wall must be funded before he agrees to end the shutdown, told him and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi he would be willing to keep government closed for "months or even years." Trump later confirmed he made that statement.

"I'm not pleased hearing the president say he's just going to stay with the shutdown for as long as it takes for this one issue," Poloncarz said. "He's talking about building a wall but in the meantime he's basically building walls in our communities by preventing us from moving ahead with projects that allow people to move across the community. That's wrong." 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.