A grant for your block

SANDUSKY The city has potholes. Thousands of them. At the Wightman-Wieber Kids Fest l
May 24, 2010



The city has potholes. Thousands of them.

At the Wightman-Wieber Kids Fest last month, one resident suggested the city has more potholes than residents. Possibly true. Probably an exaggeration.

Either way, in its 2009 budget, the city didn't have enough money in its general fund to fix the streets that needed attention.

Enter the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funds.

In 2003, the Department of Housing and Urban Development made Sandusky an "entitlement community," which basically classifies it as an urbanized area. Because of that, the city has received a little more than $897,000 every year since 2004 through CDBG money, which can be used in low-to-moderate-income areas.

The money can be put toward three categories: affordable housing, suitable living environment -- which includes public services and public facilities -- and economic revitalization. It also can go toward administrative fees to oversee the program.

Under Charlene Mockensturm and Mary Bird, who split time overseeing the program from 2004-07, the city spent much more money on administrative costs and affordable housing. It reached its peak in 2007 with housing, spending almost $415,700 rehabilitating homes.

But under Carrie Handy, who became the city's chief planner in 2007, the city has begun focusing much more of its CDBG funds on infrastructure and recreation, none on economic revitalization and much less on housing.

In 2009, the city will spend almost $350,000 of its 2009 CDBG money on street repairs, plus $218,000 on the renovation of the Hayes Avenue overpass.

"In the past, the city has used CDBG on housing more than anything else," Handy said. "We're going to focus it on infrastructure more now, I think. We have a big infrastructure need, and don't have the city money to take care of that."

The city also devoted 2009 CDBG money to a new splash pad at Huron Park, which will open later this summer. Officials also want to use future funds for a beach at Lions Park.

"It's tired and worn-out looking," said city commissioner Dave Waddington of Lions Park. "It needs all the attention we can give it."