City to get federal funding to implement
By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - Every three years, city residents are encouraged to present any of their ideas or needs regarding city operations to city officials.
The officials then take all the suggestions, outline them in a document and send it to the federal government. In turn, money is sent back to the city to help the officials fulfill the plan's suggestions.
"We are an entitlement city," said Jon Ward, director of the Fort Pierce Department of Urban Development. "We get a small slice of the federal pie for doing community programs with the money."
The money, community development block grant funds, comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This year, the citizens have once again spoken and the results are being presented to city commissioners and the public this month and in August.
"We've been taking comments from the public and online," Mr. Ward said. "They are fairly consistent with requests from past plans."
He said the suggestions for how to spend the money range from religious interests to children's programs to economic needs.
The only problem with the funding is that it is less than in years past, because of a reduction in government support.
"Our funding is down 42 percent," he said. "This year alone, we lost 22 percent of the funding."
The citizen participation plan will be used to develop a five-year consolidated plan, as well as an annual action plan. The action plan will allocate one year's funding at a time to specific projects and activities.
This year's action plan is due to be submitted to HUD by Aug. 15. The monies received will be distributed by the city's Department of Urban Redevelopment, which was formally known as the Community Services Department. That department was disbanded in 2010.
"We're moving more toward (using the funds for) job creation," he said. "The annual report gives us a chance to be flexible with the money from year to year."
The Fort Pierce City Commission and city residents heard the action plan at its meeting on July 16 and will hear it again at a meeting on Aug. 6. The plan is open to the public for comments during the meeting.
The annual action plan for the upcoming year can also be found on the main page of the city's website at www.cityoffortpierce.com.