Pontiac plans to take over management of federal funds – The Oakland Press
At a town hall Thursday, Pontiac residents had the chance to learn about an annual federal disbursement known as the Community Development Block Grant, which last year provided more than $800,000 for city improvement projects.
Thursday’s meeting was the first of two town hall meetings for Pontiac residents, aimed at getting their thoughts and ideas on the best ways to use federal money; explaining how spending decisions are made and how the city plans to transfer control of money from Oakland County to City Hall.
Alexandra Borngesser, the city’s director of grants and philanthropy, led a presentation with Rachel Loughrin, the city’s director of community development; Renee Hall, Grants Compliance Analyst; and Michael Martin, Grants Coordinator.
Renee Hall said CDBG funds are specifically targeted to low-income people and those with special needs in slum clearance and blight or meeting an urgent need. The city cannot use the grant to write checks to individuals, build new homes, pay city expenses for operations or maintenance, or purchase building materials.
Since 1974, the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program has provided annual grants to states, cities, and counties. The amount of each grant is based on a formula intended to help urban communities – places where large low-to-moderate income families live – maintain decent levels of housing and living conditions while expanding economic opportunity. Grants are awarded through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires each government unit to follow strict rules for handling money.
Borngesser said the county has been managing Pontiac’s CDBG funds since the city was under emergency management. Before the era of emergency managers, city officials did not meet HUD standards for managing funds, such as writing accountability reports, so the city office was disbanded.
Now, with plans for the city to take over management of the funds, Borngesser said they are rebuilding the department so the city can meet federal accountability standards.
“Compliance is the name of our game,” she told residents.
Borngesser said the county keeps about 20% of the annual grant to cover administrative costs. She said grant amounts are decided each year by federal officials based on several criteria.
The town halls are intended to allow more people to have a say in how CDBG funds are spent. Borngesser said city council approves the plans after a public hearing where people can have their say.
Town halls are not required by HUD, but are an effort by city officials to hear from more residents, Mayor Tim Greimel said. He said the city had hosted more than 20 town halls on a variety of topics since January.
Several residents lingered after the meeting to speak with city officials and fill out a paper survey asking for CDBG spending priorities.
Robert Bass, a former school board member, said the most important factor in the city taking over management of CDBG is making sure the voice of residents is heard.
The next CDBG Public Meeting will be held from 6-7 p.m. at Pontiac City Hall, 47450 Woodward Avenue and includes time for questions from the public and the suggestion of ideas. The paper survey is available at and online at https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/sv/NvbpJsR?source_id=784debac-f400-408e-8a39-17f12f867d5c&source_type=em&c=4ClAfNgsSNLI7r_boZpjaOJM5eB-l5F_RAWoTyhMrFtGAFFmITAuTQ==. A video from Thursday’s town hall is on the city’s YouTube page, https://www.facebook.com/pontiaccityhall/videos/122750671448087.