Largo Reviews Strategic Plans and Community Block Grants
by Bill Lopez
LARGO - A Largo city administration meeting was advertised as a public hearing in December to provide citizens an opportunity to offer suggestions for the Fiscal Year 2009/10 Community Development Block Grants G Action Plan (CDBAP). The board consists of John DeBellis (Chairman), Sandy Bates, Samantha Fenger, Beverly McDonald, Fred Restaino, and Joseph Stefko.
Yard signs in front of housing projects, features on the city's TV station, newspaper articles and garbage truck ads ask for suggestions from the public about various resources available to Largo residents such as utility hookups, eviction prevention and rental utility assistance, for example. If a need is identified and it is eligible for CDBG funds, the Largo staff attempts to include it in the Action Plan and identify appropriate programming.
Board member Joseph Stefko sees a need for rental assistance to low income senior citizens. He referred staff to a program administered by the City of Lakeland, Florida, as a possible model.
Responding to a request by Chairman John DeBellis for an explanation of "housing delivery services," Housing Grant Specialist Terry Buyers explained that funds allocated to housing delivery services cover the salary of staff directly involved with the housing rehabilitation program, such as the Housing Construction Specialist. These funds also cover the cost of any inspection costs related to housing rehabilitation.
With respect to minor projects like streetlights in certain target areas, Buyers explained CDBG funding is allocated to larger, more comprehensive improvements or services. These require complete rationale and inclusion the Action Plan.
Funds have also been allocated to help prevent homelessness through rental assistance programs and the city is participating in the funding of Pinellas Hope II, which will provide transitional housing next to the Pinellas Hope site. Largo works with other jurisdictions to address homelessness at the County level. Since homelessness can be a deterrent to economic growth, so it should be considered in the Action Plan according to Board Member Sandy Bates. Largo has no homeless shelters in the city but the city has supported organizations that assist Largo residents.
City administration in Largo is required to submit a strategic plan that describes community needs and goals to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) every five years. According to Housing Grant Specialist Terry Buyers with the city's planning department, current goals include housing and homelessness assistance, community development and emergency response.
The city has a five-year strategic plan that also outlines objectives related city initiatives and an Action Plan that works to implement objectives. The present Action Plan being addressed will be the final one for the city's current strategic planning cycle since Largo will embark upon a newly updated five-year strategic plan in 2009.
City staff will prepare a report to the City Commission. Information about the Block Grant program is available from the City of Largo.
Contact Bill Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org
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