April 9, 2013

Portland council OKs plans for $1.9 million in grants

But some disagree with City Manager Mark Rees' decision to reduce funding for certain programs.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Interactive map: Community Development Block Grant projects
click to enlarge
Explore the city's recommended CDBG grant recipients and funding levels, as endorsed by the City Council.

PORTLAND – The City Council voted Monday night to approve City Manager Mark Rees' plan to distribute about $1.9 million in federal Community Development Block Grants.

But not everyone agreed with Rees' plan, which gives the city's Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement team $11,200 less than it requested.

Rees' plan also reduced funding for community policing, an after-hours emergency assistance hot line for individuals and families in crisis and health care for the homeless.

The manager's grant funding plan was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Councilor Ed Suslovic in the minority. Councilors John Anton and David Marshall did not attend the meeting.

Suslovic questioned the wisdom of reducing the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement team's budget request from $75,000 to $63,800.

The HOME team, operated by the Milestone Foundation, travels by foot and van throughout the Old Port and downtown each day, searching for people who may need help finding shelter or may be suffering from drug addiction or alcohol-related issues.

"The HOME team is an unqualified success," Suslovic said.

He questioned whether Rees' plan subverted a separate funding plan advanced by the city's CDBG Annual Allocation Committee -- a plan that he said was more in line with the City Council's goals.

"I am troubled by the departure from the allocation committee's recommendations," he said. "These are all important programs meeting critical needs."

In a letter to the City Council, Rees said he "made some very difficult decisions regarding social services. With the growing needs of our homeless population, I feel it is imperative that we continue to fund our safety net programs, specifically food."

To leave funding for food, programs such as health care for the homeless, which sought $109,000, had funding requests reduced to $92,000, Rees said.

He said it represents a 15 percent reduction, which he applied equally to other social service agency funding requests.

Monday's meeting was the second time that councilors held a public hearing on the grant requests. Only a few agencies had anyone speak on their behalf.

Annette Rogers, who manages the Portland Housing Authority's Sagamore Village, urged the council to fully fund a new playground there for $45,750.

She said the previous playground had to be removed for safety reasons more than eight years ago. More than 200 children could use the new playground.

Rees' plan calls for full funding of the playground.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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