finance committee meet

Tracy Bond, the community development and housing director for the City of Mansfield, meets with members of the Mansfield City Council finance committee on Tuesday morning -- Cliff Mears, Jon Van Harlingen and Walden "Butch" Jefferson.

MANSFIELD -- The City of Mansfield could lose up to $559,216 in federal Housing & Urban Development funds if the money is not spent by May 2.

That was the message given Tuesday morning to members of Mansfield City Council's finance committee during a meeting with Tracy Bond, the city's community development and housing director.

The funds have been unspent from past HUD grants and must be reallocated and spent before new grant funds are expended, said Bond, who took over the city department just over a year ago.

Community Development Block Grants are one of HUD's longest-running programs and provides federal funds with the goals of affordable housing, anti-poverty programs and infrastructure development.

Federal dollars also come to the city through the HOME program, that provides formula grants to states and localities that communities use -- often in partnership with local nonprofit groups - to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct assistance rental assistance to low-income people.

During the discussion, 3rd Ward Councilman Jon Van Harlingen asked Bond several times about the unspent HUD funds previously approved by the federal government.

"Are we gonna lose $559,000? I'm confused and I halfway understand the program," Van Harlingen said.  "Are we gonna get this done?"

Bond replied, "I sure hope so. It shouldn't be a problem. In the past, the department hasn't done other activities and the money has built up over the years and not gotten taken care of and not (been) moved. That's what I am working through now."

Bond said more than $200,000 of the funds has been committed, but not yet spent, on emergency home repairs. She told council members she is also exploring potential sidewalk projects and equipment upgrades in the parks department.

She said both of those would be permitted under the city's past five-year consolidated plan, which ended in 2018.

Bond asked for assistance from other city departments.

"In order to move fast, there are people that have been doing it a long time, it would be nice to just have that momentum .. have them assist with us getting it out there," Bond said.

4th Ward Councilman Walden "Butch" Jefferson asked if she thought that would be a problem.

"No, I don't think so. We're all professionals and we've been doing it. So, just a reminder about it, really," Bond said.

"I have had meetings with other departments. I have started conversations with how they could assist us with the spending of these funds. I need that to happen. It's an ongoing thing I have hinted about," Bond said.

Finance Director Linn Steward cautioned council members that the city's general fund could be on the hook if projects are initiated and funds not spent before the May 2 deadline.

The finance committee, which is still working on the city's 2020 temporary budget, also met with engineer Bob Bianchi about his department's planned expenses next year.

One planned expense is $1.3 million for final design of the $15 million North Lake Park dry dam, also known as the Touby Run Flood Mitigation Hazard Project. Money for the project would come from the city's water/sewer fund.

Council has approved a $13.3 million citywide water meter replacement program, which is expect to generate additional revenue to help fund the dry dam project. The replacements will begin in February.

Van Harlingen told Bianchi he is not comfortable with moving ahead with the project, which council has put on hold, until the city has a better handle on exactly how much additional revenue will be generated, suggesting that may not be until be 2021.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"