Whose Wish Is Granted?

I.F. City Council to consider grant applicants

By Phil Davidson
Photo by Robert Bower
Post Register
Printed on Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The city, which is set to receive $420,000 through a U.S. block grant, will have to pare down a wish list of projects totaling $545,000.

President George W. Bush's signing of a half-trillion-dollar federal spending package last week assured that the city of Idaho Falls will receive some grants intended to help lower-income families.

The question now is: Where will the money be spent?

Idaho Falls Grants Administrator Jan Blickenstaff has compiled a list of 10 projects to be considered, totaling $545,000.

However, as part of the $555 billion omnibus spending package Congress approved before taking its winter recess, Idaho Falls is set to receive about $420,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

So council members will need to eliminate some projects or pare down the requests.

Here's a glimpse at the projects that have been proposed:

Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership has asked for $18,000 to repave a courtyard at The Haven shelter, which currently serves 21 families. Ann Johnson, manager of the shelter, said people have slipped in the courtyard, which becomes especially hazardous with ice in the winter.

EICAP also is requesting $20,000 to assist with legal costs for low- to moderate-income grandparents raising their grandchildren. The funds will assist with the costs to legalize the guardianships.

The city of Idaho Falls is requesting $50,000 to rebuild the railroad crossing and sidewalk at the Idaho Falls Public Library's south entrance. The goal is to provide better access for disabled people.

Living Independently for Everyone Inc. is requesting $35,000 to construct as many as seven handicap-access projects for low- to moderate-income homeowners. Projects may include access ramps, wider doorways, and remodeled bathrooms and interior spaces.

The City Council is expected to hold a work session soon, at which members will prioritize the projects before deciding on their funding at a meeting in late January. Once the list is finalized, Blickenstaff will submit the projects for HUD's approval.

The council has already been lobbied on behalf of some of the projects, including the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corp.'s $100,000 request to continue downtown improvement projects. Blake Hall, a local attorney and member of the IFDDC, reminded council members at a December meeting that the money the group received last year went toward remedying slum conditions in downtown Idaho Falls.

"If you want to ensure that people are proud of our community, this is a real opportunity to do that," Hall told the council.

Though the council members already have a tentative list of project proposals, Blickenstaff said there's still time for other groups to make funding requests. Those applications must be submitted before the council votes at the end of the month.

"If there's a pressing need, we can still put it in," he said.

Reporter Phil Davidson can be reached at 542-6750.

Did you know?

Those eligible to receive Entitlement Communities Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development include the largest U.S. cities, counties with populations of at least 200,000 and metropolitan cities with at least 50,000 residents.

HUD determines the amount of each entitlement grant by a statutory dual formula that uses several objective measures of community needs, including the extent of poverty, population, housing overcrowding, age of housing and population growth lag in relationship to other areas.