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Preisker Park walking trail, city sidewalk repairs prioritized for federal funding
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Preisker Park walking trail, city sidewalk repairs prioritized for federal funding

From the What you need to know for Thursday, October 8 series

Preisker Park improvements, city sidewalk renovations, and funds for housing and shelter services will be prioritized for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) capital funding next year, the Santa Maria City Council decided Tuesday.

CDBG funding is provided annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with funds required to be divided between capital and public safety projects. 

Upon review of the applications for funding received this summer, the city's Block Grants Advisory Committee presented seven proposals to the City Council that fit criteria for capital funding, with six recommended for initial prioritization. 

Setting priorities is one of the first stages of the annual funding process for 2021-22, with direction from the City Council required for the committee to advise organizations specifically how much funding to apply for and narrow down applicants, Community Program Manager Rosie Rojo said.

"Staff received seven eligible capital project proposals totaling nearly $1.9 million. The city only expects to have approximately $1.1 million available for capital funding," she said. 

Three of the proposals were from city departments, with the rest submitted by community organizations.

Based on submitted requests, the committee recommended the following allocations: $517,000 for a walking trail and irrigation system at Preisker Park; $240,000 for upgraded sidewalks and ADA ramp curbs; $134,000 for fire hydrant replacements; $95,000 for facility upgrades at Good Samaritan Shelter; $75,000 for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County's minor home repair program; and $61,000 for affordable veteran housing by Central Coast Headway Inc.

A funding request from the Boys and Girls Club of Mid-Central Coast for the rehabilitation of its teen center also fit application criteria, but due to funding restrictions, the project was ultimately not recommended for priority. 

Prior to voting, council members debated whether to approve the committee's recommended allocations or to move dollars around, particularly to bolster funding for sidewalk and ADA ramp curb improvements. 

Councilwoman Gloria Soto referenced community survey responses to the city's Active Transportation Plan, where residents listed sidewalk conditions as one of several barriers to accessible walking and biking in the city.

"After reading these recommendations, what seems to be more of a priority, really, is the ability of our residents to be able to get to the grocery store, to school, to get to the doctor, in a safe way," she said. 

She argued that while the Preisker Park and sidewalk improvement projects both involve public safety, the need for improved sidewalks throughout the city is more urgent. 

Councilman Mike Cordero reminded the council that there is never enough money to go around to organizations in need, and that moving more money toward one proposal would mean less funding for another. 

"Every one of these projects is worthy of being completed and fully funded, and we never have enough money. It’s like having a tablecloth that’s too small for the table," Cordero said. "The best we can do sometimes is the best we can do."

The council voted 4-1 to approve funding priority recommendations as presented by the committee, with Soto dissenting. 

Further recommendations will be provided by the committee in early 2020, with actual allocations approved by the City Council in the spring and taking effect in July. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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