Carson City proceeds with HUD grant projects

Carson City is moving forward with plans to spend $109,000 in federal assistance money to improve a tourist attraction in the city's historic district, saying the fixes are needed for disabled residents to enjoy downtown.

Disabled resident Raymond Maheux said he and his wife believe the money should pay for other needs in keeping with the original intention of Housing and Urban Development funding.

"I'm not trying to knock the city, but there are a lot more important things to be done than that," Maheux said. "There are a lot of areas in the city of Carson that could be cleaned up. That's what HUD is about. There are so many single mothers and they're right in front of you. Why put money into something nobody really cares about?"

Maheux said he and his wife, who is also disabled, are not interested in visiting the historic district or the trail that takes visitors on a walking tour of historic homes near the Governor's Mansion. He called the city last month to voice his concerns.

"There are some people living in old trailers that are leaking," Maheux said. "Put the money into that. Those are the people who need the help."

The public can comment on the city's list of projects proposed for 2005 HUD grant funds. A public meeting will July 1, when the Board of Supervisors will consider approving the list.

Carson's Economic Development and Redevelopment Director Joe McCarthy and a group of city officials developed the list of projects for the city's first $536,000 allocation of Community Development Block Grant funding this year.

A representative from the Rural Center for Independent Living said she liked the Blue Line Trail project idea, McCarthy said, but no other comments were received.

The project will include replacing and removing the sidewalk in areas and replace or install disabled ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Housing advocates and homeless and domestic violence organizations understand the Blue Line Trail project's importance, McCarthy said.

"They understand community development efforts in support of providing better living conditions for a protected class is, in fact, good economic policy," McCarthy said. "This will have a tremendous impact, to serve the ADA downtown. They deserve the right to access the historic business district like you and me. It's treacherous over there, absolutely treacherous."

Other projects on the list include installing an open wireless network in the downtown business district that can be accessed at public places, a low-income energy study, senior legal services and a grant for homeless services.

HUD economic development funding provides cities flexibility to choose many types of projects, as long as they serve a neighborhood that is comprised mostly of moderate- or low-income residents. Funding can be used for economic development, home ownership, affordable housing and programs for those residents. A Carson City family of four making $48,000 or less a year is considered moderate- or low-income.

Housing is not a priority this year, however, because the city gets other federal housing funds from the Western HOME Consortium. The city will continue to work with outside agencies to use the funds for other purposes, McCarthy said. The city's five-year plan sets goals for a wide range of projects.

"We want to help educate them over the next five years so they can take advantage of this," McCarthy said. "It takes a while for groups to understand and mobilize efforts. It's my job to bring them all around the table and hear their pressing needs."

Friends in Service Helping (FISH) director Monte Fast attended the city's meetings about the HUD funding earlier this year but didn't apply. He might apply for grants in the future, he said.

"We all talked about it and tried to show what our priorities were, but when the grants were given out and we saw them announced, it didn't surprise me at all," Fast said. "All of us out here in human services can try to make political static, but it's not going to do any good at all. These city people have to get the streets fixed and sewers working. Even the needy people need toilets and the disabled need access to crosswalks and slopes."

Lisa Lee, director of the Advocates to End Domestic Violence, said she plans to apply for future funding to pay for a new shelter.


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