The Paul Nelson Aquatic Center was the biggest beneficiary of federal funds recently doled out by the Santa Maria City Council to projects and community organizations, with almost $716,000 earmarked for reconstruction of the municipal pool. 

The funds, which come from the federal government’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, aim to address priorities identified by the city last fall: reducing homelessness, expanding youth services, providing affordable housing and revitalizing existing neighborhoods.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the city of Santa Maria had $1,750,777 in CDBG money to give out, with the exception of 20% reserved for administration costs.

Federal rules designate 15% of the funds are to be used for public service grants and 65% for capital projects.

On May 7, Community Programs Manager Rosie Rojo presented the funding recommendations presented by the Block Grants Advisory Committee, which reviewed applications from 30 different organizations.

For the $1.16 million that was available for capital projects, the committee recommended six organizations get funding.

The bulk of the capital projects money — $715,980 — will go to the Recreation and Parks Department to fund the reconstruction of the pool at the Paul Nelson Aquatic Center.

Most of the remaining funds will be split among Community Action Partnership and Community Action Commission’s minor home repair programs, a building rehabilitation project for the Santa Maria Valley Family and Youth Center, a tree removal project at Good Samaritan Shelter and administration for a tenant-based rental assistance program that the city offers.

About $240,000 in public service funds were split among 17 different organizations, including Good Samaritan Shelter, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and The Salvation Army.

Each of the council members was allowed to allocate $5,000 to one of the public service applicants.

Councilmen Mike Cordero and Dr. Michael Moats both allocated their $5,000 to the Community Action Commission’s senior lunch program, which provides food deliveries to seniors in need.

“I’m going to try to put the money towards some of the most basic needs,” Cordero said. “That is, feeding someone and giving them warmth during those times. I just can’t imagine not having food in your house or something nourishing to eat.”

Councilwoman Etta Waterfield chose to split her $5,000 between Santa Maria Valley Meals on Wheels and Community Partners in Caring, whose volunteers visit seniors to perform nonmedical support services, like helping with errands or shopping.

“I look at the people who made this nation, who made America great — I don’t want to see them go by the wayside,” she said.

A pair of Santa Maria High School seniors both bound for UCLA this fall and Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino were honored during a Wednesday night reception at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge. Fourteen students — including Blanco and Davila — qualified for students of the year by being honored as the Elks' students of the month, according to Andrea Licoscos, who heads the selection committee. She said the decision was difficult, given each candidate's record of community service, active involvement in extracurricular activities and strong academic achievement.

Councilwoman Gloria Soto and Mayor Alice Patino both opted to split their funds between the North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center and the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse — Santa Maria Teen Court.

“As a previous reproductive health educator, I know the importance of being in our schools, talking to our young people about consent and also having services available to them when they're in crisis,” Soto said.

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed


City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.