Springdale set to spend HUD money in community

SPRINGDALE — The City Council is set to vote on giving $117,031 to be split among Springdale nonprofit agencies.

The money is 13.6% of the $857,593 the city will receive for the state fiscal 2022 through the Community Development Block Grant program of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The council also will consider allocating money for renovating older homes and improving a public facility, Dean Allen told the council June 6. Allen is the community development program manager for the city.

Administrative costs from the block grant would be budgeted at $75,000, or 8% of the total grant money, Allen said.

The federal housing department works to develop “vibrant urban communities” by providing pleasant and healthy living environments and expanding economic opportunities for people with low and moderate incomes, the department’s website reads.

The council will vote during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. June 28.

Public Service

Mayor Doug Sprouse said the city supports nonprofit organizations working directly with residents through the block grant program.

This year’s applicants support residents living with food insecurity, help homeless veterans, provide basic health and provide a home for pregnant teens, Allen said.

Many in Northwest Arkansas have heard the story of Kendrick Fincher. The 13-year-old died in August 1995 of a heatstroke after a junior high football practice in Rogers.

His mother started a foundation in the hope of preventing deaths from heatstroke.

The $7,300 block grant money for Kendrick Fincher’s Hydration for Life would be spent to print pamphlets and provide water bottles for students in Springdale, said Rhonda Wotowis, who identified herself Thursday as “Kendrick’s mom.”

The foundation’s educator goes into schools to teach students about heatstroke and the importance of staying hydrated, Wotowis explained. Each child receives a water bottle and a pamphlet.

Wotowis said the foundation sees its greatest impact in the schools.

“The students are also impacting their families,” she said. “They take home the pamphlet that reminds them to talk to their families.”

The foundation served 11,300 students in 2021.

Wotowis said the foundation was overcome with requests for water bottles when students returned to school and found the water fountains were turned off to prevent the spread of covid-19.

Each nonprofit group applies for the grant money in a one-month period, with dates set by the federal housing program. The city has supported some of the organizations for many years, and some are new, Allen said.

City officials cannot recruit organizations to apply, according to the federal rules.

CARES Act

The city was able to support Hydration for Life and other nonprofit organizations with extra money during the pandemic, when the need was high and many sources of money were low, Allen said.

The city decided to give the money to the nonprofit groups already vetted and supported through the block grant program. These include Raymond A. Alstott Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2952, Bread of Life, Community Clinic, Kendrick Fincher Hydration for Life, CASA of NWA, Compassion House, Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary for Post 2952 and Feed the 479.

The federal government requires a detailed report of how each dollar is spent, and the organizations were very familiar with the reporting system, he continued. Plus, the agencies have staff members who could devote their time to those reports that the city doesn’t, Sprouse noted.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has granted the city $923,382 in relief money.

“These funds are available to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus,” Allen said.

The first round of covid money was released to support cities. Springdale received $478,000, explained Shane Walker, the city’s Community Development home renovation specialist. The second round of money went to the state. The third round of funding was for the residents, and Springdale got $445,382.

The city expects another grant of covid money of $178,632 in September.

This is a reallocation of the covid money not spent by other cities, Allen said.

The cities eligible for this reallocation are limited to those cities expending 99% or more of their covid money. Springdale was the only city in Arkansas to receive a reallocation amount, Allen said.

Housing services

The primary objective of the housing renovation program is to assist qualified homeowners with repairs or improvements to their homes, reads information on the city’s website.

The city for 2022 will dedicate $622,413, or 42%, of the block grant money to housing renovation, Allen said.

Program goals include reducing the homeowner’s monthly utility expenses, eliminate a condition that may be unsafe or unhealthy for the occupants and eliminate unsightly conditions of the home.

A housing renovation project is necessary to bring a home up to current energy efficiency standards, building codes or housing standards, the website continues.

The average cost of a home renovation was $19,417 in fiscal 2020, Allen said.

Some money also is available for emergency repairs, such as plumbing issues or an air conditioner or heater not working when its needed, Walker said. The program also covered 21 emergency situations totaling $12,000.

The program in 2021 completed work on 38 dwellings, affecting 121 people.

At present, the program has eight homes in some stage of construction and nine on a waiting list, with expected completion 60 to 90 days after the work starts, Walker said.

The program is renovating fewer homes than before because of inflated prices and the slow supply chain for construction material, Allen said. Walker noted work started on a home March 1, and the contractor is still waiting on the garage door to arrive.

The program focuses on homes built in 1978 or earlier. “That’s the date they quit using lead paint,” Walker said.

The home owner must meet a certain income threshold and have occupied the home for more than a year.

Public facilities

The block grant program allows cities the opportunity to use the money to upgrade public facilities with cultural, recreational and health amenities.

The 2022 money will replace the field made from the rubber of recycled tires at the Miracle League Field in the Randall Tyson Recreational Complex, Allen reported.

The city will spend $300,000, or 34%, of the block grant money on the field, he said.

The ball field and accompanying playground are barrier-free and accessible for people with disabilities.