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The city has focused its annual Community Development Block Grant allocation on infrastructure improvements since 2014, but the prioritized project list the Hot Springs Board of Directors approved earlier this week assigned a high rank to a service helping homeowners.

They were the primary beneficiaries during the first 10 years of the city's participation in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development program, which funded the rehabilitation of more than 100 homes from 2004 to 2013. As the allocation began to shrink amid increased competition for CDBG funds, the city adopted a macro approach predicated on strengthening pedestrian connections to commerce, abating blight and creating attractive public spaces.

Most of the 19 projects qualifying for fiscal year 2019 funding are consistent with that mission, including sidewalk improvements for Park and Hobson avenues and amenities for the Rev. James Donald Rice Park on Pleasant Street.

Ranking fourth on the list is funding for a lawn care service provided by area youth for the elderly, disabled, indigent and victims of domestic violence. The RA Psychle Community Education and Restoration Community, Care, Call and Compliance, or 4C program, began as a pilot project in April, according to the application it submitted to the Community Development Advisory Committee, or CDAC.

Since then, it has serviced 39 lawns, helping homeowners who are physically or financially unable to comply with the city's property maintenance code while providing job training for at-risk youths.

"Given the void left by the recent closure of the Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club, shaping the future of the youth in this city has become a paramount focus of RA Psychle's call to action," the application said. "By offering training, community service/volunteer hours and employment resources we expect a significant reduction in juvenile delinquent behavior."

In addition to money for purchasing new lawn care equipment, the $42,303 in funding the city board approved includes $5,880 for lawn care certification test training. The application said certification training is expected to begin early next year.

The application said many homeowners are unable to keep their yards in harmony with the city's 12-point checklist, including more than 100 elderly homeowners whom the city's neighborhood services division said need assistance.

CDBG funding would help the 4C program achieve the scale needed to address the problem, the application said, estimating the funds could care for 10 yards per week and 520 per year.

The 19 eligible applications are requesting $588,000 in funding. The $456,368 awarded for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was a 17-percent increase from the $389,255 awarded during the previous fiscal year.

Funds are allocated according to the prioritized list CDAC recommends to the board. Planning and Development Director Kathy Sellman told city directors projects that don't get funded will be reconsidered should additional funds become available.

Higher priority projects are sometimes completed under budget, allowing funds to be reprogrammed for projects further down the list.

"Additional funds do occasionally become available," she said. "Being lower than the number available is by no means a death sentence."

Fiscal year 2019 funding has yet to be approved. A formula factoring population, age of housing stock and income statistics determine the size of the city's grant. Board Districts 1 and 2 are the primary recipients of the city's allocation. The city's fiscal year 2019 projects were prioritized in the following order:

1. Planning and administration, $45,000.

2. Linden Park bathroom replacement Part 2, $50,500.

3. Design plans for Malvern Avenue improvement project, $43,500.

4. RA Psychle 4C public service, $42,303.

5. Spot blight nuisance abatement, $40,000.

6. East side Park Avenue sidewalk improvements, $42,132.

7. Ouachita Children's Center bathrooms, $50,063.

8. Rev. Rice Park amenities, $11,700.

9. Habitat for Humanity -- ADA accessibility ramp, $3,740.

10. Habitat for Humanity -- Watt Street lot preparation, $1,500.

11. Hobson Avenue and Lacy Street bus shelter, $11,000.

12. Ouachita Behavioral Health and Wellness bus shelter, $11,000.

13. Hobson and Linwood sidewalk improvements, $21,014.

14. Habitat for Humanity -- Watt Street waterline, $5,350.

15. Habitat for Humanity -- removal of Garland Avenue retaining wall and lot preparation, $9,000.

16. Arbor Street improvements, $13,389.

17. Dell and Ravine streets drainage improvements, $42,121.

18. Cedar Street sidewalk improvements Phase 2, $10,261.

19. Malvern Avenue crosswalk at Silver Street, $11,680.

20. Third Street improvements, $84,772.

21. Ali's Wonderland ADA accessible parking $38,153

Local on 02/10/2019

Print Headline: Board OKs CDBG priorities

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