By a show of consensus Tuesday, the Santa Maria City Council endorsed a park project, teen program and new home for a homeless family as top contenders to receive potential grant funding. 

The council’s endorsement is the first step in the process to allocate annual federal grant money aimed at improving quality-of-life issues in Santa Maria.

The grants would be awarded in fiscal year 2018-19. 

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is administered nationally by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and locally by the Santa Maria’s Community Development Department.

Though the exact amount hasn’t been announced, Rosie Narez, community programs manager who oversees the CDBG program, estimates the city will receive about $1.3 million in total.

Earlier this year, the city’s Block Grand Advisory Committee and Narez issued a call for applications involving capital projects to be considered for CDBG funding. 

Narez said, of the city’s total CDBG allotment, Santa Maria will only have about $850,000 for capital projects. The balance of the city's $1.3 million allotment will be used for administrative costs, and awarded as grants to fund public service agencies and projects. The public service applications and grants will be awarded during a later council session. 

“Staff received eight proposals (for capital projects) totaling over $1.6 million dollars,” Narez said. “Pretty much about half of what is being asked will be available.”

The list of CDBG capital fund applications included funding for a home repair assistance program; financial assistance for a low-income housing project and money to help homeowners acquire solar panels.

At the top of list for Santa Maria’s City Council was an application from its Recreation and Parks Department for about $600,000 to pay for upgrades to Russell Park. The department originally requested $756,905 in CDBG funds but slimmed down its request.

The plan for Russell Park, one of the city’s oldest, is to relocate and replace the park’s play area, build a permanent restroom structure and improve security of the park.

Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada said he has cut some of the planned improvements and will have his staff look for more ways to save money.

“I tried to look at things and say, ‘What can we remove?’” Posada explained.

If money can be saved on the park project, more grant money will be available for other projects. 

Second on the council’s list was a request by Boys & Girls Club of Santa Maria for about $200,000 to expand its existing teen center.

The project, when complete, will provide more than 1,000 additional square feet of teen-only program space.

Mayor Alice Patino said funding the teen center expansion project goes hand in hand with the city and the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety’s goal to create more programs for the city’s young people.

“We have a lot of programs for smaller children and not enough for teens,” Patino said.

The third application Santa Maria leaders endorsed is a $42,000 request from the Good Samaritan Shelter to build a new four-bedroom affordable housing unit at 614 S. Pine St. The money would be used to cover demolition, grading and on- and off-site improvements.

“This is as hard as it has ever been,” Councilman Mike Cordero said about determining which projects will receive funding and which projects will not. 

Now, the city’s Block Grant Advisory Committee will take the council’s priority list and deliberate the best way to distribute the funds once they become available.

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

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