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NACOG considers changes in community grant distribution

Clark Memorial Clubhouse is currently undergoing renovations funded by CDBG money to make the facility comply with Americans with Disabilities Act. (Clark Memorial Clubhouse file photo)

Clark Memorial Clubhouse is currently undergoing renovations funded by CDBG money to make the facility comply with Americans with Disabilities Act. (Clark Memorial Clubhouse file photo)

CLARKDALE -- The Northern Arizona Council of Governments is considering changes to the distribution methods of Community Development Block Grant funds.

During a presentation to the Town of Clarkdale Tuesday, Isabel Rollins, CDBG program director for NACOG, noted that it has been several decades since the organization has taken a look at the program’s distribution methods.

“We really have not taken a good look at the document in a long time so I have made an effort to do that this year.”

CDBG money comes from the United State Department of Housing and is distributed to municipalities and communities based on a poverty/population formula. The grants are meant to fund housing and community development activities.

It initially started off as a consolidation of different projects in the ‘70s, Rollins said.

“That’s why we can fund a wide variety of things with CDBG,” she said.

Some of these projects include water, sewer, historic preservation, community facilities and so on.

Clark Memorial Clubhouse is currently undergoing renovations funded by CDBG money to make the facility comply with Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It was not qualified on the income basis but there are a few groups that automatically qualify as low-to-moderate income,” Rollins said. “That’s seniors and disabled primarily.”

NACOG hosted a meeting in Flagstaff Monday to discuss methodology of CDBG distribution.

Rollins, who has been with NACOG for almost two decades, said she is noticing a trend in recent years where communities are having a harder time coming up with projects.

“Some projects are easy to qualify – senior centers, accessibility improvements and housing rehab – and some communities have gotten burned out on that and are having a tougher time finding projects.”

Rollins noted that some of the projects being proposed by cities were “a bit of a stretch of qualifying.”

“That could possibly result in people having to send money back to the State which we want to avoid … we had two communities in the last few years who could not come up with a project”

Funds that go back to the state are placed in a “competitive pot,” Rollins said. So the money isn’t lost from the state, just the region.

Clarkdale Town Manager Gayle Mabery said one challenge a town like Clarkdale faces when it comes to utilizing CDBG funds is the lack of flexibility.

“We have done multiple projects in the past … under the new rules, we don’t have the flexibility to work with nonprofits in the community that are directly serving (the community) unless we want to give our entire $330,000 distribution to one single nonprofit. That for me really illustrates the importance of having flexibility for the communities because there are groups out there doing really good work.”

Cottonwood faced a similar crossroads earlier this year when it came to distributing their own CDBG funds.

Each council member noted that the decision was a difficult one, but ended up voting in favor of the Parks & Recreation, Open Space, and Wayfinding Master Plan.  

Other projects included transitional housing for the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition, Verde Valley Senior Center restoration, Verde Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore Improvements and Old Town Activity Park improvements.

Former Cottonwood vice mayor Kyla Allen said in her two and a half years on city council, this was one of the toughest decisions she’s ever witnessed.

Rollins said the reason why communities can no longer split up their allotted CDBG funds is because of cuts toward the department of housing.

“They don’t have the staff capacity to manage multiple projects,” she said.

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