The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 15, 2013

Somerset OKs plans for $1.2M in grants

SOMERSET — Somerset County’s commissioners on Tuesday finalized arrangements to receive more than $1.2 million in Community Development Block Grant funds.

The money, received through the state Department of Community and Economic Development, will go toward a variety of infrastructure projects.

Paint Township was awarded $500,000 in competitive funds for a project that will extend a sewer line by about 4,000 linear feet. Conemaugh, Jenner and Somerset townships; Windber and Somerset boroughs; and Somerset County received $741,261 combined in 2012 entitlement money.

Commissioners Pamela Tokar-Ickes, John Vatavuk and Joe Betta approved the contracts at their regular monthly meeting.

“This is one of the few funding sources that we have for true infrastructure projects. ... For many of these communities, there is no other funding source,” Tokar-Ickes said.

CDBG money usually is dispersed in late summer or early fall. The funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were delayed because of presidential election year politics, budget problems and the fiscal cliff debate.

“There were a lot of things that delayed HUD getting the (money) out to the states,” said Steve Spochart, Redevelopment Authority of Somerset County’s executive director.

The county will divide its $237,203 among Meyersdale Municipal Authority; Fairhope Township; Hooversville, Rockwood, Ursina and Paint boroughs; and Shade-Central City Joint Authority for various projects.

The redevelopment authority selected the recipients from nearly two dozen applicants.

“We have done our due diligence related to these projects,” Spochart said.

Betta said he wants to become more involved in the evaluation process.

“I’m not going to do anything to hinder the progress of this particular grant, but in the future, I'll not vote for – and I will probably try to stop – any grant that I haven’t been thoroughly informed of beforehand,” Betta said.

Among the five municipalities that received money directly, Somerset Township collected the most, getting $140,745 that will be used toward repaying a loan incurred when making sanitary sewer improvements and to cover administrative costs.

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