East Moline city council advanced $150,000 in federal grant dollars for sidewalk improvements and to set up a fund to go toward resident utility assistance and furnace replacement.
Under the plan, low-income East Moline residents would also be able to apply for up to $1,000 a month, specifically, those who are in jeopardy of having their water shut off because of non-payment.
“The city has seen an influx in nonpayment for utility bills due to the pandemic,” documents provided to the city council state.
Renters could apply for up to three months of support from the program.
The city council advanced the plan which would earmark $50,000 to redo sidewalks to be ADA compliant, $25,000 for utility assistance, and $50,000 for the furnace replacement program. To be eligible for the utility assistance and furnace replacement programs, residents would be required to have a State of Illinois Family Medical Card.
After lengthy debate, members of the city council decided to table two other proposed uses of the federal Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Programs. The city has $259,000 available under the program.
One proposed use that the council decided to hold off on was demolishing dilapidated properties. One property that the city determined was “uninhabitable” because of a December 2019 fire was listed by the city as one of the most critical properties to address.
City staff anticipated the demolition of the property would cost between $15,000 and $25,000 of CBDG funds, according to documents provided to the council.
Council members were hesitant to use the CBDG funds for that property or other demolishing properties, preferring to let the owner pay for the cost or have the city purchase the property in order to have control over maintenance and future of the demolished site.
“If we're going to do this, I don't want to see it all happen again,” said council member Nancy Mulcahey. “And I know it's probably a staffing situation, you don't have somebody out there every day. But my concern is more about what's going to happen after the fact. Is there still going to be rotten property owners, or, or rental property owners all of a sudden, we're in the same situation not today, but years from now?”
Because of stipulations in the grant, the money only applies to property that the city doesn’t own, and City Administrator Doug Maxeiner said because of limited city funds, the “carrot” approach of the city purchasing the property would have limited capacity.
Maxeiner proposed adding low-income verification guidelines in order to apply for the city’s CBDG help. City staff didn’t yet have guidelines drawn up, he said, but Mulcahey said she would be willing to support using the federal grant money with those income thresholds.
The program would only be available to properties in eligible census tracts, in which half of households have low to moderate incomes.
Another proposal of the federal grant funds is to earmark $60,000 for demolitions and improvements in the Mitchell Mobile Home Park. City staff said they would reach out to the park owners to determine what possible steps forward using the federal money could be.