CD Week reflects critical need for federal CDBG funding of projects

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CD Week reflects critical need for federal CDBG funding of projects

For 40 years the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program has remained a primary funding source of opportunity for communities desiring to undertake critical need community and economic development projects.

For 40 years the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program has remained a primary funding source of opportunity for communities desiring to undertake critical need community and economic development projects.

Today at the State Capitol, officials from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) and several communities extolled the benefits of “40 Years of Building Strong Communities” through examples of the latest outstanding projects.

Gov. Dave Heineman kicked off the celebration by proclaiming April 21-April 26, 2014, as Community Development (CD) Week in Nebraska and welcoming those in attendance.

“CDBG projects have served to foster growth and prosperity in Nebraska communities across the state by providing opportunities to gain access to resources that will enable every community throughout the state to thrive,” said Gov. Heineman. “Today I am joined by volunteers and officials of programs and agencies that have assisted with and accomplished outstanding projects.”

The Governor cited just how significant a role the CDBG program has played during the past five years:

It has helped fund 344 projects with $60 million, in combination with $120 million in leveraged state, local, and private matching funds. It has benefitted more than 550,000 people—more than 280,000 of them considered low- and middle-income wage earners through Nebraska.

DED administers CDBG funding for all communities outside the cities of Omaha, Lincoln and Bellevue.

The 2014 Governor’s Showcase Community Award went to Hartington.

Year after year, Hartington (pop, 1,540) has proven it’s a Showcase winner, even winning Honorable Mention in 2011. The community has a long track record of successful projects.

A few projects in which Hartington partnered with DED during the past five years include:

  • The Westfield Acres housing development project that encompassed 19 lots for the construction of homes—supported by $400,000 in CDBG funds.
  • The start-up of Trail Manor Mfg. Company, LLC, where Hartington was awarded $505,000 in CDBG funding to assist the business with a building renovation and inventory, leading to the creation of 20 new positions.
  • A $350,000 Downtown Revitalization grant awarded in 2011 to help restore various aspects of infrastructure in the downtown area.

For information on Hartington, contact Carla Becker at 402-254-6357 or devcoor@hartel.net

The 2014 Governor’s Showcase Community—Honorable Mention Award went to Norfolk (pop. 24,210*) an outstanding example of a progressive, future-oriented community with a long list of successful projects.

  • Housing is a big concern for the community and more than $375,000 in CDBG funds have been invested in the rehabilitation of housing citywide.
  • Premier Companies and Premier Senior Marketing, an insurance company based here, received $505,000 in CDBG funding to renovate a larger existing building that was vacant so it could relocate and expand its workforce. The project ultimately created 25 jobs, exceeding its original goal of 20 new jobs.
  • The ongoing North Fork Riverwalk also is a good example of the use of private funds through master plan funding that benefits the entire city. The project is designed to encourage more activity to areas along the North Fork River that encourages more recreation and benefits area businesses. Surrounding features, such as parks and trails are being renovated, and new trails are being created.

For information on Norfolk, contact Thomas L. Higginbotham at 402-379-1150 or thomash@nenedd.org

The City of Omaha recognized the following projects:

  • One World Community Health Centers, located in the historic Livestock Exchange Building, provides a broad array of health services, including outpatient, primary care, dental, optical, prenatal, behavioral health and social services for the city’s most vulnerable clients. More than half are children, and 89 percent of the clientele live at or below 200 percent of the poverty level.

One World also oversees other locations, some school-based health centers in west and northwest Omaha, and the Care-Mobile dental van. In 2013, the clinics served more than 30,000 patients (5,416 new patients).

The City of Omaha allocated more than $5.5 million in CDBG funding to renovate and retrofit the building for use as a health center. An additional $39 million private funding completed the project.

  • Restoration Exchange Omaha (REO) is a restructured organization formed by merging Landmarks Inc., Restore Omaha, and Omaha Urban Neighborhoods.

During the past ten years, the organization has organized an annual spring preservation conference, attracting some of the nation’s top names in historic preservation. The conference, the biggest of its kind in the region, provides owners of older homes with tools and information to help maintain and improve their homes and neighborhoods.

REO also organizes programs and activities around advocacy, education and invigoration. Among these are support for the preparation of National Register nominations, lobbying the state legislature for historic preservation incentives, and partnering with neighborhoods, business districts and the city.

  • Columbus Park Neighborhood Association and Good Neighbor Ministries worked with the Omaha Planning Department’s Housing & Community Development Division to redevelop the neighborhood.

The City invested more than $650,000 in CDBG funds and $405,000 in Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Funds to rehabilitate 26 owner-occupied homes from 24th Street to the Interstate and Leavenworth to Woolworth streets.

Twenty Good Neighborhood Network volunteers canvased the area, surveying 643 area homeowners about their needs and awareness of available resources. This outreach effort connected and engaged residents, fostering a greater feeling of neighborhood and community.

The Network also helped organize an annual neighborhood clean-up, reducing unsightly junk, including tires, metal and batteries in more than 100 yards. They also removed or cleaned up more than 40 volunteer trees and painted ten homes. Social events were organized, including a neighborhood campout for children, and a men’s fall working retreat to fix up the camp.

For information on the Omaha projects, contact Norita Matt at 402-444-5177 or Norita.matt@ci.omaha.ne.us .

The City of Lincoln recognized Community CROPS.

Community CROPS help people work together to grow healthy food and live sustainably. The project has grown from one community garden in 2003 to 13 gardens in 2013. Last year, more than 640 gardeners produced nearly 14 tons of food, improving the health and well-being of their families. Of those families, almost 80 percent earned at or below median income levels.

In 2005, Community CROPS broadened its approach to include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that created a training farm to “grow farmers.” The training farm distributes produce through purchased shares. In 2013, 170 families purchased CSA shares and received fresh produce weekly. Trainee farmers were paid wholesale rates for their produce, and remaining funds helped staff at the farm. Since 2005, 170 farmers have attended classes, of which 35 started their own farms, and 11 improved their existing ag-related businesses.

In 2013, more than 1,500 young people learned about gardening and nutrition through Community CROPS. The CROPS educational outreach ranges from the Young Farmers Club at Mickle Middle School to classroom programming at Dawes and Elliott Elementary Schools. Community-wide, more than 9,000 people attended CROPS workshops, events, and presentations.

During 2014, Community Crops is partnering with Southern Heights Presbyterian Church and Nature Explore, a project of the Arbor Day Foundation and the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. The church’s community garden site in south Lincoln will be expanded, making it possible to create Nebraska’s first Food Forest—a woodland ecosystem that yields food. The new two-acre space will also include more than 50 community gardens, urban agriculture plots, and a full-sized research-based outdoor classroom.

For information on the Lincoln project, contact Opal Doerr at 402-441-7852 or odoerr@lincoln.ne.gov .

The City of Bellevue recognized its inaugural CDBG Program that established a Housing Rehabilitation Program to provide financial assistance to low- and moderate-income homeowners to eliminate safety hazards, code violations, and barriers to accessibility in their homes.

During its inaugural year in 2013, four households received assistance and three were placed on a waiting list for when additional funding becomes available.

The program is a partnership between the City of Bellevue’s Permits and Inspections Department, Human Services Department, and Finance Department.

For information on the Bellevue project, contact Abby Highland at 402-293-6596 or abby.highland@bellevue.net .

For information on this article, contact Susan Albertus at 800-426-6505, 402-471-3987, or sue.albertus@nebraska.gov

*Edit on 4/23/2014 to change Norfolk population from 224,332 to 2010 Census Population of 24,210