cdbg 2017

The Santa Maria City Council discusses Community Development Block Grant funds on Tuesday evening.

The effects of an act of arson that destroyed a large playground structure at Santa Maria’s Armstrong Park are being felt by more than just the children who no longer can play on it.

On Tuesday, the Santa Maria City Council voted to reallocate Community Development Block Grant funds from a project that would have gone to renovate an alleyway along South Railroad Avenue to help restore Armstrong Park’s playground.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development (HUD) and are meant to be directed to local programs and projects that address physical, economic and social needs in communities. The city of Santa Maria created its Block Grant Advisory Committee to work with groups and agencies to help the City Council decide who gets the grant funds.

On Tuesday, the committee presented its recommendations to the City Council. 

Along with other community groups, the city of Santa Maria applies to use CDBG funds to pay for projects like the recent renovation of Oakley Park and the Railroad Avenue Alley project.

The Block Grant Advisory Committee received about 30 total applications in two categories, all competing for a piece of about $1.4 million in total federal grant funds.

The first category of grants is for capital projects. The second category is for projects that fund public service projects like efforts against homelessness and crime prevention.

The Armstrong Park playground restoration project will cost about $200,000. Tuesday night’s vote essentially set the effort to refurbish some alleyways back to square one and earmarked more than $170,000 to replace the structure that burned March 27.

“Once we get the money, we can have another play structure there in 60 to 90 days,” Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada said.

The other CDBG applications approved Tuesday night included a project to repair the roof of the Santa Maria Historical Society Museum and help the Good Samaritan Shelter refurbish a building that, when done, will house three homeless families.

“We don’t want our history to become history,” said Brooke Bradley, of the Historical Society.

The Block Grant Advisory Committee received 22 applications for CDBG funds to help fund services for the public.

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The committee voted to fund 15 requests for grants. Included in the applications the committee decided not to fund was a $15,000 request from the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society; a $15,000 request from the Central Coast Future Leaders organizations; and a $10,000 application from Camp Fire Central Coast.

New this year, the committee set aside $25,000 in a discretionary fund that Santa Maria City Council could use to either fund a program that was not funded or add to money that was allocated, $5,000 for each member of the council.

The organization Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley also was on the list of applications not to be funded, but Mayor Alice Patino, Councilman Jack Boysen, and Councilwoman Etta Waterfield decided to pull their portions of the fund to give Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley $15,000 for its programs, which involve gang intervention and anti-smoking campaigns.

Councilman Michael Moats split his discretion grant equally -- $2,500 to the Domestic Violence Solutions organization and $2,500 to the North County Rape Crisis Center.

Councilman Mike Cordero gave his $5,000 to the Good Samaritan Shelter.

“I would like to thank the CDBG committee for all of your hard work and service. I know it is not easy,” Patino said.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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City Government Reporter