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Changes, Chances for Block Grants Discussed

May 18, 2005 – The two-dozen community members gathered at the Board of Education Curriculum Center Wednesday had ideas on how to improve life on St. Croix, but most of those ideas won't be funded.
The main reason for the public hearing conducted by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the V.I. Housing Finance Authority was to get input about the consolidated plan the V.I. government has to turn into the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department before Aug. 15, for continual funding of the Community Development Block Grant program, the HOME Investment Partnership program and the Emergency Shelter Grant program.
The programs are staying essentially the same and Laurence Joseph, who oversees the CDBG grants said the money – about $2 million – was the same for CDBG.
However, the process is changing. Consolidated plans had been required for states since 1989 to receive CDBG funds, but it was always discretionary for the Virgin Islands.
Keith Richards, special assistant to the governor, who conducted the hearing, said the Virgin Islands had done draft plans before. This year, however, a five-year consolidated plan had been mandated.
Joshua and Richards spent the first hour of the meeting discussing the components of the plan and how this hearing was to get input from community members on community priorities for the next five years. A representative from the Housing Finance Authority also spoke about what that authority was doing to help low- and moderate-income families own their own homes.
Joshua indicated the draft of the five-year plan would probably be completed next week and then have and 30-day review and comment period and there would be a second public hearing.
Attendees were given three forms to fill out. One was fill in the blanks on what community priorities should be. A second was a list of 33 items and attendees were to assign each a priority number one through 33.
The third form was the one most important to organizations seeking grant money. Richards said it was imperative that organizations fill out this form and turn it in by Monday if they want to be considered for grants during the years 2006 through 2010. The form simply asked for identification of population being served, how much funding was in place and how much was being requested.
The last part of the hearing touched on grant requests for next year. Joshua pointed out that over $6 million was being requested on St. Croix, but less than $900,000 was available.
The big item in those requests was one by the Blue Marlin Swim team for a $4 million aquatic center. No one was there representing the Blue Marlins.
Among those speaking up for their projects was Bob White, representing Cruzan Bikeways. He said most of the funding is in place for an 18-mile bikeway on the South Shore. He was requesting $200,000 to help with administrative costs of the project during the next five years. He said part of the trail would be built next year and it would be finished the following year.
Roger Dewey represented St. Croix Foundation. The foundation is asking for $145,000 to re-roof Alexander Theater. He said it was part of ongoing renovation in the Sunday Market Square area of Christiansted.
Other St. Croix organizations requesting money for projects and the amount include: Our Town Frederiksted, rehabilitation of 32 A Hospital Street, $125,000; Helping Children Work, Inc., land purchase and construction in Estate Grove, $113,540; Village, V.I. Partners in Recovery; purchase land and renovate property in Frederiksted, $535,000; Southgate Baptist Church, rehabilitation of 21 A Market St. and 27C Company St., $98,000; Beyond Visions Foundation, conduct financial workshops, $23,000; V.I. Resources and Conservation, operation of a technical service program, $20,000; Methodist Church, operation of a Saturday soup kitchen, $15,000; St. Croix Mission Outreach, rental assistance for drug recovery patients; $19,000; American Legion, renovation at 15,16 Prince St., Frederiksted, $100,000; Arma Pavie Sports Club, Inc., baseball field light installation, $95,000; and Nation of Islam, building a park in Scion Farm, $640,000. The V.I. Housing Authority and Housing Parks and Recreation applied for funds for various after-school programs.
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