Church Hill seeking $500,000 grant to fund sewer project

Jeff Bobo • Jan 16, 2007 at 11:03 AM

CHURCH HILL - The Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed Tuesday to apply once again for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for sewer system upgrades, the same application that was denied in 2006.

Church Hill's 2006 CDBG application submitted last February finished 21st out of 48 sewer improvement applicants in Tennessee, according to Evan Sanders of Community Development Partners Inc., which provides grant application services for Church Hill.

Sanders told the BMA that ordinarily the state funds about 25 CDBG applications, but due to federal cuts to the program two years ago there were only 15 approved in 2005 and 16 this past year.

Sanders said CDBG funds nationwide have been squeezed a bit - about 30 percent - and as a result there have been fewer projects approved for funds nationwide.

"We're somewhat hopeful that with possible new changes and directions on the federal level that the CDBG program will rise again at least to the level it was," Sanders told the BMA. "It had been the same level for many years, and two years ago the president proposed a budget that had zero CDBG funding that basically cut the program. That was not popular with Democrats or Republicans, and they got in as much as they could, but it's not at the level it was."

Sanders noted that the number of sewer project applications was up significantly in 2006, which also hurt Church Hill's chances. Going back 25 years to the beginning of the CDBG program, the number of points Church Hill's 2006 application was scored in the judging process would have resulted in the grant being awarded in any other year prior to 2006.

Church Hill's CDBG application would have continued the city's sewer improvement program, which was begun in 2004 when the city did receive a $500,000 grant.

The BMA voted unanimously Tuesday to apply for that same $500,000 grant in 2007, which would require a 19 percent match of about $117,000.

One idea suggested by Sanders to improve the odds of acceptance was to decrease the amount of the grant request. Sanders said the judges look at the amount of funding requested compared to the number of people served by the project, and that factor is assigned about one-sixth of the overall points during application scoring.

The BMA opted against decreasing the amount of the application.

"I personally think we need to roll the dice and go for the half million," Mayor Dennis Deal said. "Then if for some reason we don't get it we look at it in '08 for maybe $400,000 versus $500,000."

Sanders said the new application should be ready for submission by early February.

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