Cleveland's block grant holds steady

Cleveland's block grant holds steady

July 30th, 2012 by Randall Higgins in News

Mayor Tom Rowland stands in front of the shops of downtown Cleveland, Tenn.

Photo by Jenna Walker /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be sending $332,936 to Cleveland this year, the local share of the federal community development block grant.

That's about how much the city has received each year since 2004 when it became a federally recognized metropolitan area, but Mayor Tom Rowland said the amount still surprised him.

"I didn't expect it to be that much this year," he said, noting some other cities have had reductions in their shares of the annual grant.

Since 2004, Cleveland has received more than $3.2 million from the grant.

Rowland said the local grant program's success is due in part to Teresa Torbett, who writes the city's grant applications and handles the federally required reporting.

On Friday, Torbett said the success is because city departments pitch in to plan and carry out infrastructure work to make the annual grant go further.

Federally recognized urban areas receive an automatic entitlement grant each year through the HUD block grant program. The money is required to be spent in targeted areas where more than half the residents are low to moderate income.

The list of local projects made possible by the grant is a long one, from sidewalks to nearly reconstructing the historic College Hill recreation center and Mosby Park and partnerships with Habitat for Humanity.

The latest project on the list is a new splash park for kids, part of the city's new South Cleveland Recreation Center's pool that opened last week.

Some grant money was used to partner with Habitat for Humanity for nearly 41/2 acres on Victory Street in South Cleveland for new homes. The development will be similar to the 10-acre Century Village, where the city used block grant money for infrastructure and Habitat volunteers and families built homes.

The grant funds one city codes enforcement officer who works primarily in the targeted area.

"Yes, the grant has benefited a lot of people," Torbett said. "Our council has been very supportive. They have used the grant to fund a lot of bricks-and-mortar projects they didn't have the resources to do."

In a letter announcing this year's grant, HUD planner Mary C. Wilson said partnerships among the city departments, nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses "have proven to be invaluable as you and your partners address the problems of affordable housing, homelessness, community development needs and economic opportunities for all citizens, particularly for very-low-income and low-income persons."