Sidewalks, Other Topics Discussed at Community Development Block Grant Public Hearing

City Planner Vince DeJoy speaks during Thursday's Community Development Block Program public meeting at Breeze Point Landing. DeJoy cooked hot dogs on National Hot Dog Day for those in attendance.

WARREN, Pa. – The City of Warren held a public hearing on Thursday for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program at Breeze Point Landing and one common theme emerged – sidewalks.

The meeting was held outside, with Warren city planner Vince DeJoy cooking hot dogs on National Hot Dog Day. Several members of the public showed up for the open forum, which received better attendance than it has in the past per Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz.

The purpose of the meeting was for the city to gather feedback on how best to allocate the CDBG funds for 2022 which DeJoy said are $322,000.

In the past, the city has used the funds for street reconstructions.

“Construction, sidewalks, we’ll tear up a street, landscaping, new driveway aprons,” DeJoy said about some of the projects that can be done with the CDBG funds. “Generally during the time of construction people are inconvenienced, but once it’s done, they can see a direct benefit from this program. What it does is it makes it so we don’t have to do these types of expenditures using city property tax general fund money. It’s a great way to do these kinds of projects that might not get done otherwise.

“Some of the streets we’ve done are South-South St., Park Avenue, Franklin St, the 600 block of East St. and some of these are two-year programs. But that doesn’t mean we are limited to doing these street projects. One of the other objectives is to eliminate slum and blight. I did this in Jamestown for a number of years and one of the program activities is demolition. Basically, we tore down derelict houses.”

The major catch is that the funds must be used to benefit a certain percentage of people in areas with low to moderate-income – 51 percent to be exact.

“What we end up doing is going around and doing a house to house survey,” DeJoy said. “And we have to submit that survey to HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to prove that 51 percent of the people that are benefitting from that activity meet that income eligibility.”

Several members of the public voiced their input, again with sidewalk improvement being the most talked about.

“Sidewalks are something that we hear day in, day out in the city,” Holtz said. “It’s a tough nut to crack. If they meet the income eligibility, they can get done under certain circumstances, but a 50-foot sidewalk in front of a house costs about $5,000.”

Added Dejoy: “Sidewalks are something that everyone feels passionate about, and I totally agree.”

The city has until October to submit its plans for utilizing the $322,000.

“The turnout was fantastic,” DeJoy said, adding that they will now use the input from the community as they put together their plan.