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Arnold debates use of expected $340,000 in block grants

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 12:36 a.m.

A pot of $340,000 sounds like a lot of money, but Arnold officials said it won't nearly cover all of the possible community projects they would like to tackle.

That's the amount of money Community Development Director Tom Dunn is expecting Arnold to have in 2015 through the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

“Arnold has a lot of needs and council will have to decide what the priorities are,” Dunn said Tuesday.

Dunn noted more than a third of it essentially is already accounted for: $34,000 toward the annual payment on the redevelopment project loan; about $61,000 that covers Dunn's salary and other administrative costs; and $50,000 for acquisition and demolition of blighted properties.

After a public hearing on Tuesday, council tentatively allocated the remaining $195,000:

• $30,000 for the city's fire departments to be used for a new thermal-imaging camera and replacing outdated lights in the public safety building on Drey Street.

• $100,000 toward several sewer projects.

• $62,000 toward the repaving of Fifth Avenue between Freund Alley and the New Kensington border.

• $3,000 for a to-be-determined community project benefitting Arnold's youth.

Several people in the audience of Tuesday's council meeting campaigned hard for council to fund some type of community service program geared toward getting young people to assist with cleaning up the city.

Retired teacher Larry Rowe, Arnold police Sgt. Shannon Santucci-Davis and Valley High School graduates Marcus Houser, Ellyse Williams and Mycaiah Clemons lobbied for a program that would give youth something constructive to do and benefit the community at the same time.

Dunn and city Solicitor John Pallone said the grant money could be used for that purpose, but some organization would have to step up to oversee the project and submit a proposal that would meet federal requirements.

Clemons offered up her KidsKardio program, an initiative aimed at providing activities for youth in Arnold and New Kensington, as the sponsor.

Williams said they would be able to put together a budget and proposal for council in time for the July 8 council meeting, at which council will need to finalize their planned use of next year's CDBG money.

Houser was critical of Councilwoman Karen Peconi's suggestion of putting only $3,000 toward the youth service project.

He questioned whether the city could reduce its administrative costs and spend less than the $10,000 estimated on the fire hall lights.

“You can't give $7,000 to the kids?” asked a skeptical Clemons, who had requested funding for KidsKardio in last year's grant application but failed to submit a proposal.

“Seven thousand dollars is a lot of money the way the city is right now,” Peconi said.

She and Mayor Larry Milito pointed to at least $250,000 in work needed to replace aging, collapsing sewers under Ivy Alley behind city hall. Councilman David Horvat said the city needs to consider upgrades needed to reduce sewer overflows into the Allegheny River.

As for the fire hall lights, Councilman Philip McKinley said about 65 light bulbs are out and can't be replaced because the fixtures are outdated. The remaining fire department money would be used for a camera, which fire Chief J.C. Tedorski said would replace their 11-year-old model with a poorly functioning battery.

“We have all kinds of problems,” Dunn said. “We're not going to solve everything with this money.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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