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Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Commissioners will try to divvy $100,000

By Timothy Cox
Mercer County Commissioners are mulling how to divide about $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant money among more than $350,000 in eligible projects.
Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday where local government leaders told county officials about their proposed improvement projects. Commissioners said they expect to decide which projects to fund within a week or so.
Eight applicants are seeking more than $350,000, but the county has less than $100,000 to distribute through the annual formula program. Commissioners estimated about $90,000 would be available after a percentage is withheld for administration costs.
Because of the limited amount of money - which tends to dip a little each year - commissioners have changed their approach in recent years. They tend to give a large portion of the money to one project, especially if that project is in line for other grant money.
"We try to look at this thing analytically," Commissioner Bob Nuding said, adding that county officials want projects that positively affect the most people.
County officials also try to spread the money around through the years, he said. He encouraged townships and villages that are not funded this year to keep submitting their projects for consideration.
Last year, commissioners gave a bulk of the money to the village of Montezuma to use as part of its massive street, sidewalk and drainage improvement project.
Chickasaw is seeking most of the available grant money this year. Consultant Ron Puthoff said the town might be able to put together a street improvement project worth $1 million or more. Many of the proposed improvements are safety-related, Puthoff said.
Chickasaw would not accept the local CDBG money if the rest of its pending grant applications don't come through, he said.
"This is a good project for a small village to really take care of some serious problems," Puthoff said.
Officials from Burkettsville, Marion Township and Jefferson Township also lobbied for their projects.
Jefferson Township Trustees want to make street improvements at Highland Park, Marion Township has planned a safety-related sidewalk project and Burkettsville wants help to fix an aging bridge.
Commissioners also have applied for a piece of the funding for their own project. About $15,000 in CDBG money is sought to make the grandstand at the Mercer County Fairgrounds handicapped-accessibile.
Commissioners can fund no more than five projects. All proposed work must benefit low- to moderate-income residents.
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