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Healing Place makes city grant list

Council
May. 13, 2013 @ 11:20 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Pleas from staff members of a local substance abuse recovery center for continued funding prompted Huntington City Council members to make last-minute changes Monday to the Community Development Block Grant Program budget.

The changes, however, could mean less money for a program that helps low-income homeowners rehabilitate their properties.

The council unanimously approved a $1.6 million 2013-14 budget for the CDBG Program, which comes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is used for various projects in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. The city's annual allocation has shrunk by nearly half during the past decade because of federal budget problems, and next year's amount is a 5 percent cut from this year, said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning.

"We believe we've been able to spread out what little we have as best we can," Holley told council members.

Two agencies -- the Huntington City Mission and The Healing Place -- that were facing funding cuts or whose requests were not being funded at all asked council members to reconsider. The Healing Place is a men's substance abuse recovery center in Fairfield East. The $55,000 that the facility requested would help it expand the 30 beds that it already offers, said Matt Boggs, a development associate with The Healing Place and a recovering addict. The budget presented to council members did not include any funding.

Boggs showed council members a picture of his mug shot at the Western Regional Jail when he was arrested a few years ago. He said The Healing Place helped him turn his life around, but there are hundreds more who are desperate for assistance.

"You guys are fully aware of the drug epidemic we have in this town," Boggs said.

Upon hearing those comments, Councilman Scott Caserta made a motion to carve $25,000 out of the CDBG budget for The Healing Place. The motion was unanimously approved but will come at the expense of the World Changers, a program which renovates homes for low-income families who are current on city fees. The CDBG funding for the program was reduced to $40,000 from $65,000. The new budgeted amount will be enough to help about 15 families, Holley said.

Council Chairman Mark Bates said the funding for World Changers could be restored if another CDBG-funded project, renovations to the Central City Market, is instead paid for by the Huntington Municipal Development Authority. The budget includes $20,000 in repairs to the market.

Mayor Steve Williams said he supported Caserta's amendment because the city's growing heroin problem is the one issue that keeps him awake at night.

"We don't need to be incarcerating any more people," he said. "We need to be helping them."

The City Mission requested $75,000 to purchase 21 new heating and cooling units at Project Hope, a transitional living facility consisting of 18 two- and three-bedroom apartments. The budget, however, includes an appropriation of only $25,000 for the City Mission. That amount did not change Monday night. The heating and cooling units are 16 years old, and two are already broken, said Dave Duffield, a Huntington attorney and member of the City Mission's board of directors.

Next year's CDBG budget also includes $350,000 for the Fairfield East and A.D. Lewis Community Centers, $220,000 for demolishing dilapidated homes, $125,000 for the Old Main Corridor between 10th and 12th streets on 4th Avenue; and $100,000 for construction of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health.

Also Monday, council approved eight amended ordinances to streamline the business licensing process. The changes reduce the number of business licensing categories from 41 to five. The change is part of an effort to make City Hall friendlier for business owners. In addition to streamlining licenses, City Council approved Mayor Steve Williams' proposal to hire a business services concierge next fiscal year to assist people when they come to City Hall.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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