Sebastian Council at odds over how to spend $100,000 grant

SEBASTIAN – The City of Sebastian has received a nearly $100,000 grant from the federal government but council members are unsure how to spend it.

The funds, which come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, could be used on a variety of projects – including replacement of the septic system at Riverview Park. City Manager Al Minner recommended to the council that they use the funds for just that – install a lift station at Riverview Park to tie the bathroom facility into the water and sewer system.

While some council members appeared ready to approve the expenditure, Mayor Richard Gillmor noted that the HUD funds could be used to provide housing for military service men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

That “might be a worthwhile goal,” he said.

Counilman Eugene Wolff agreed, noting that the city doesn’t have $100,000 in the budget that could be used to help with soldier housing.

“We’re missing an opportunity,” Wolff said.

Vice Mayor Jim Hill supported Minner’s recommendation to move forward with the lift station project at the park, telling his fellow council members that the grant funds would free up city dollars for other projects.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy agreed with Hill that the project should move forward as is.

Hill also said  it would be “unfair” to discuss other potential uses for the funds when the council has no information about those possible projects.

Minner told the council that they have time to bring the item back for more discussion at a later council meeting.

“It’s not a time dilemma,” he said.

Gillmor said he would prefer having multiple projects from which to choose to use the $99,683 grant.

According to city records, HUD funds can be used on the following types of projects:

acquisition of real property;

relocation and demolition;

rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures;

construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes; and

public services, within certain limits.

Generally, the following types of activities are ineligible:

acquisition, construction, or reconstruction of buildings for the general conduct of government (i.e. City Hall or Police Department);

political activities;

certain income payments; and

construction of new housing by units of general local government.

Minner said that he “took the easy out” by selecting an eligible project already in the city’s budget and plan to use the funds, which is why he recommended the lift station.

“Our time is limited,” he added, though he believes the council could take some time to discuss other uses before losing the federal money.

The council voted 3-2 in favor of tabling a decision at that meeting and having further discussion at a later council meeting. Council members Coy and Don Wright voted against the motion.

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