The El Centro Water Treatment Plant at 1101 W. Danenberg Drive is shown in this aerial image. The city recently approved $300,000 to $500,000 from its water enterprise fund for emergency repairs to the water main at the plant. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF EL CENTRO

El Centro Council OKs $580K in Block Grant Allocations

EL CENTRO – A local senior nutrition program, assistance for a shelter for homeless women and children, and sidewalk improvements were just a few of the quality-of-life initiatives to be funded by the next cycle of state block grants for El Centro.

The El Centro City Council recently approved the distribution of about $580,000 in state Community Development Block Grant monies to fund 11 initiatives within the city.

The $580,000 CDBG funding allocation represents about half of the more than $1.1 million that had been requested by several public and private entities for the 2021-2022 grant cycle, which starts July 1.

The council unanimously approved the funding recommendations during its Feb. 2 regular meeting, following a presentation by Adriana Nava, El Centro Community Services Department director.

The grant awards were recommended by city staff based on the requirements of the CDBG program, the community’s needs, the council’s previous input, and the past successes of the grant applicants.

The Community Services Department will receive about $328,000 total to support a number of its initiatives.

As part of that overall award, about $150,000 will fund housing rehabilitation efforts for low- and moderate-income households. That award represented the largest grant included in the city’s 2021-2022 CDBG program.

An additional $5,000 was allocated for the department to help reduce or eliminate lead-based paint hazards on rehabilitated properties, while another $10,000 would go toward asbestos testing or abatement on those rehabilitated properties, the list of recommended CDBG grants stated.

The department’s Fair Housing Program will receive about $47,000, a funding activity required by the CDBG program, while another approximate $116,000 will go toward assisting the department’s personnel with the administration of the CDBG monies.

“Managing these grants is a tough, tough gig,” Nava said during the council meeting.

Another approximate $134,000 was awarded to the city’s Public Works Department to construct federal Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks. The department had requested more than $368,000 for the project’s construction costs.

The city’s code enforcement program was awarded about $78,000 to assist with temporary staffing, training, and legal fees.

Of the non-city entities that applied for and received grant funds, a total of $32,500 will go toward three separate initiatives proposed by Catholic Charities. The largest of its grant awards, $12,500, will help with staffing and supplies at its House of Hope shelter for homeless women and children.

Another $12,000 was awarded to Catholic Charities’ senior nutrition program, with the council approving the stipulation that 70 percent of that award must be used to purchase food.

Both the $12,000 and the $12,500 grant awards represented the amount that Catholic Charities had formally requested.

However, a major funding request to assist with staffing, utilities, and consultancy services for the organization’s planned homeless day center to be established at its Orange Avenue location did not fare so well. Of the $250,000 it had sought, only $8,000 was awarded.

The smallest of the city’s CDBG recommended allocations, about $7,300, went to Sure Helpline Crisis Center, with 70 percent of that award earmarked to pay for fees, the list of recommended CDBG grants stated.

With the council’s approval of the city’s recommended grant recipients, the city will now draft its “annual action plan” for CDBG program year 2021-2022. A draft action plan will be available for public comment from April 7 to May 12, after which time the city must submit its final plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development no later than May 13.

“What’s in front of us and being proposed is the best that we can do with every little bit of money,” El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas-Walker said during the Feb. 2 meeting.

Emergency Repairs OK’d for Water Plant

During its meeting, the council also approved the expenditure of $300,000 to $500,000 in water enterprise funds to conduct emergency repairs of a water main at the city’s water treatment plant.

The water main in question was recently discovered during routine maintenance work to have been corroded, Public Works Director Abraham Campos told the council.

“Unfortunately, this pipe is the one single pipe coming out of the (water treatment plant) serving the entire city,” the resolution’s report stated. “Should it fail, the city could be without water for an extended period of time.”

The repair project will require the installation of a second water main exiting the treatment plant to bypass water to a nearby city water main pipe. The proposed secondary line would provide an added benefit of improving service reliability going forward, the agenda report stated.

Parts needed for the approved repair project are expected to become available in a couple months, with construction itself expected to last a couple of days and requiring the plant’s shutdown, Campos said.

When asked by council members whether the city’s water enterprise fund could accommodate the unexpected expenditure, Campos said the fund was “healthy” and the expense should not be an issue.

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