The Herald News, Thursday, April 13, 2017 – Page A3

By Jo C. Goode
Email: JGoode@heraldnews.com

Fall River — A contingent of supporters and recipients came out in force at the City Council meeting Tuesday in defense of the 2018 Community Development Block Grant program with estimated awards of $2.6 million which was unanimously approved for submittal to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Executive Director Michael Dion delivered the plan, which is level-funded from 2017, that in addition to the CDBG funding, includes the CD Home Investment Partnership to fund housing rehab and acquisition and the Emergency Solutions grant funding local homeless shelters and programs. The plan is in its third year of a five year plan by CDA. “This plan continues to make sidewalk repair, economic development, youth recreational and educational services, senior services, parks and playground and public safety high priorities,” said Dion.

The plan provides an increase of $80,000 to the neighborhood policing plan from $398,000 to $478,000 that will allow for the hiring of an additional police officer which will mean eight walking beat officers from the present seven officers.

City parks and playgrounds are also seeing a bump in funding from a little more than $110,000 to $230,000. Dion said there are eight eligible parks in the city located in low-income areas.

Street and sidewalk improvements are also seeing an increase between and the 2018 appropriation and reprogrammed CDBG funds for a total of $250,000.

In his address to the council, Dion made a plea to the public to rally for the future of the CDBG program, which is under attack by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“The Community Development Block Grant and the Home program are under attack by the Trump administration. The Trump administration does not believe that these programs are providing benefits to cities. In the FY18 budget that President Trump has sent to Congress, the CDBG and Home programs are being eliminated. We can’t let this happen. If allowed the elimination of these programs will have a very detrimental effect on the city,” Dion said.

He requested that residents and the council contact their legislators in Washington, D.C., to support the funding for the programs.

A $300,000 appropriation to the Fall River Office of Economic Development, which to date remains in the proposed federal funding, has been a point of controversy lately as Mayor Jasiel Correia II has threatened to gut the appropriation to put toward his new initiative to create a city-run economic development office.

City Councilor Raymond Mitchell asked Dion if he was aware of any plans by the administration to cut FROED funding.

“No, I don’t. Putting this plan together, I sat down with the mayor and we funded that agency at $300,000,” Dion said, adding that he has been following the media’s reporting of the issue.

Dion said he was also aware that the council had voted leave to withdraw during its last meeting to fund two new positions for Correia’s proposed in-house economic development department.

“As of right now, the only game in town that I see that does job creation and job retention is the office of economic development,” Dion said.

However, the mayor does have the ability to change that, he said.