2 plans to divvy grant monies

NASHUA – The mayor wants to spend much of the money on city projects, like buying snowplows and repairing buildings.

The head of the aldermen’s human affairs committee says she wants the lion’s share to help unemployed workers and distressed families.

A philosophical battle is shaping up on where to spend anticipated Community Development Block Grant funds totaling nearly $800,000. The money includes the anticipated grant plus revenue in the form of repaid revolving loans.

“I think our resolution places a premium in alleviating some of the suffering of nonprofit agencies,” Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire said.

Wilshire, the human affairs committee chairwoman, is the principal sponsor of Resolution R-09-158, legislation that would divvy up the federal grant money.

Last Tuesday, the board of aldermen gave a first reading to Resolution R-09-175, which provides an alternative way of allocating the grant money. Its principal sponsor is Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

The five-member human affairs committee will debate the competing resolutions. The full Board of Aldermen will decide the final allotment of money. It may choose one plan or the other, or adopt a hybrid.

Lozeau said the two resolutions complement one another.

“One’s dealing with city problems and one’s dealing with nonprofit problems,” Lozeau said. “They don’t have to be competing with each other.”

However, Wilshire characterized Lozeau’s plan as giving higher priority to “snowplows and sidewalks.”

CDBG is a longstanding program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grants fund local programs such as affordable housing, anti-poverty initiatives and infrastructure development.

In recent years, the city has spent most of the loan money to fund nonprofit agencies. For example, last year less than $40,000 went to city projects.

That’s a far cry from the 1990s, when the brunt of the loans funded such city projects as road improvements and sidewalks.

Requests for funding are examined by the review and comment commission, which consists of five members the mayor appoints and aldermen confirm plus an additional 20 to 30 volunteers. The commission reviews requests and meets with agency representatives.

Some agencies didn’t meet the deadline to apply for money because the mayor “unilaterally” changed the application, Wilshire said.

Agencies were confused by the change, which made it appear the application was for city funds rather than federal grant money, Wilshire said, claiming that the mayor released very little information about a change in an application process “that’s been ongoing for 20 years.”

Lozeau said she didn’t change the application, but the process by which agencies requested funds. Agencies had to choose from CDBG money, which requires funds to be spent on new or expanding programs, or a pool of city money available for more general use, she said.

“They had to choose which dollars they were requesting. There was no application change,” Lozeau said.

The items funded in her resolution were priorities set in discussions with her senior management team, Lozeau said.

There are some similarities between the competing resolutions.

Both set aside $150,000 for a program that provides deferred payment loans to qualified residents whose inner-city homes need repair. Both provide $113,000 for lead paint abatement and other programs, and each allocates a similar amount, about $150,000, for grant program operation and administration.

But Wilshire’s plan includes money for some items left out of the mayor’s plan. Those include $20,000 for upgrades to the Tolles Street Mission, $25,000 for the development of the Ash Street Skateboard Park and $50,000 for the construction of a teen center at the Greater Nashua Boys & Girls Club.

Most notably, Wilshire’s plan appropriates $50,000 for Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Nashua, $99,558 for human service support programs and $3,000 for the operation of a fair housing education program.

None of these is mentioned in the mayor’s plan.

Conversely, Lozeau’s resolution includes items not funded in Wilshire’s resolution.

Those include $141,273 in a business revolving loan fund in the office of economic development; $10,000 in start-up costs for a micro enterprise business program and $80,000 to fund a 20 percent match for environmental cleanup at the former Nashua Manufacturing Boiler and Coal House property.

The mayor’s budget also includes $45,000 to prevent water from getting into the basement of the Hunt Memorial Building.

Another large difference between the two resolutions is in a contingency fund. The mayor’s resolution includes $159,567. Wilshire has only $19,311 allocated for contingency.

Her larger contingency is in case the committee decides some projects not in the mayor’s resolution should be funded, Lozeau said.

The human affairs committee is scheduled to meet 7 p.m. Thursday, in the aldermanic chamber at City Hall.