Colchester seeks $500,000 grant for urban renewal

COLCHESTER — Colchester's City Hall played host Wednesday night to at least 35 residents who had come to hear of a proposed resolution to seek housing rehabilitation grant funding.
A special hearing was held regarding resolution 2018-9 to apply to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)for housing rehabilitation and infrastructure improvements. Immediately following the hearing, the council convened in a special session where they voted unanimously to pass the resolution. The special hearing and session were held because the grant's annual application deadline is Nov. 2, but the next regular meeting is Nov. 5.
“Right now, what we are working on is the application that the city is submitting to DCEO for the grant. If that gets funded, at a later date we’ll take individual applications from homeowners who might be interested in participating,” Jeff Cozadd, Housing Development Manager with the Western Illinois Regional Council (WIRC), said.
“Part of the application the city sends into the state does include an income and housing survey. So, the program area that will be served, we did survey and collected information from the participants that were willing to provide that information,” Cozadd continued, “but they will have to do a separate application at a later date should the grant get funded, and hopefully we’ll be able to begin working with people sometime later next year, if the funding is approved.”
Cozadd said the program area is “block group three of census tract 111 for McDonough County, which is specifically all of the area south of Route 136 that is within Colchester city limits. So, individuals will need to live within the city limits on the south side of Route 136 to be considered eligible for this program.”
Cozadd said DCEO grant funding available this year is $16.5 million state-wide, and they will be asking for $500,000 to effect residential and infrastructure improvements.
Topping the list of infrastructure improvements concerning the city are blighted properties, storm sewer improvements, side walk repair and street repair.
Other infrastructure concerns some residents were interested in are improved broad band internet access. Cozadd said he was unsure if this was considered a necessity or not, but “it’s something that other communities bring up. (Also), the senior center and the community pool are often something that folks would like to see improved, if it’s a possibility.”
Funding for the grant originates federally with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and then goes through the DCEO, which administers CDBG programs to different municipalities within the state for housing rehabilitation and city infrastructure improvements, Cozadd said.
“The funds are available on a competitive basis, which means there will be other communities within the state that submit applications for this funding, and not all of them will get funded,” he said. “It varies year-to-year, but generally speaking, 16 to 18 DCEO grants are funded a year, and sometimes applications range from to 25 to 35.”
Public interest is a factor which determines whether or not a municipality receives DCEO grant funding. One of the reasons public hearings are held is to drum up public support, he said. Public support was evident in the large number of attendees – nearly 40 city residents – who attended the public hearing.
To be eligibile for participation DCEO grant program means a homeowner has to be at or below 80 percent of the area's median income level, Cozadd said, and each county has its own particular numbers which comes out each year. The WIRC had previously sent out a survey with the eligibility table and has since measured the returned surveys for eligible individuals.
The DCEO grant requires the city request funding for at least 10 homes, and have at least 30 eligible surveys.
“They want a 3:1 ratio,” he said. “We sent out the income housing surveys, and when we got those back, the last number I had, which is what we’re going to stick with, was 63 returned surveys from the program area. So, twice the number as many as were needed.” He said that is very good because it definitely shows a lot of public support.
Cozadd reiterated that applications are due November 2 and said he anticipates that DCEO will communicate who gets funded and who does not of the applications sometime in the spring, probably around April.
“We don’t find out right away,” Cozadd said. “Once they do announce the funding to the municipalities, then we have to go through an environmental clearance period and a request for a release of funds proceeds which is lengthy, and then sometime after that they will issue a grant agreement at which time we can actually begin activity.”
He also said that if approved for a grant, the city will find out how much they will receive by the end of 2019 or at some point into the next year; construction would then begin after that point.

Reach Christopher Ginn by email at chrisginn1978@gmail.com