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DCED satisfied with Connellsville's handling of CDBG allocations

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 7:00 p.m.

The Department of Community and Economic Development has dropped an investigation into Connellsville's allocation of block grants to the New Haven Hose Company.

Michael Edwards, Connellsville Redevelopment Authority executive director, received word from the department that the investigation into an inquiry it received from a citizen concerning Community Development Block Grant allocations had been concluded and the agency was satisfied that there was nothing improper about the allocation of $50,000 to New Haven Hose.

The department found all of the moves by council were in line, especially since the city had reduced the allocation.

“There was also not a conflict of interest on the part of the mayor (Charles Matthews),” said Edwards.

The inquiry sent to the department questioned if there was a conflict of interest in allowing Matthews to vote on grants for New Haven since he is a member of the fire department.

“As far as DCED is concerned, the investigation is closed,” said Edwards, reading from the DCED email.

Councilman Gregory Ritch said council backed New Haven Hose Company “100 percent,” adding the volunteers save the city about $1 million annually.

Agency officials were not able to independently confirm the investigation or its results.

Attempts to contact Matthews for comment were not successful.

In August, council revised its allocation for 2013 grant funding as residents voiced their concerns about how the money would be spent.

Council originally planned to allocate $85,000 to New Haven Hose for the purchase of a new $526,000 fire truck.

After city residents expressed their opinions during a public hearing, council changed its plan. Instead of allocating the entire $85,000 for the fire truck, council decided to spend $50,000 on building demolition and to earmark $35,000 for the purchase of the fire truck.

In addition to the $85,000 for the fire truck and building demolition, the remaining CDBG funding was earmarked as follows: $115,000 for the Francis Street storm sewer and road construction project; $15,000 for East Park improvements; and $31,000 for code enforcement.

Council also reallocated grant funding from 2009 through 2012 that had been set aside for demolition of the Aaron's building. Local businessman Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger recently purchased the building for $1.

Instead of spending $23,000 in 2009 funding for building demolition, council reallocated $10,000 for community center improvements and $13,000 for fire equipment for New Haven Hose.

An additional $40,000 in grants from 2010 and $25,000 from the following year were reallocated for the fire truck.

Grants for 2012 were allocated as follows: $7,000 for the fire truck; $35,000 to demolish residential structures; and $31,000 for improvements to East Park and Mountz Creek Park.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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