Funding plans for a transient housing facility in Soldotna have hit a federal red tape snag, at least as far as the city is concerned.
City Manager Tom Boedeker told the city council Wednesday night that a community development block grant applied for by Love In the Name of Christ to build the homeless shelter must come through Housing and Urban Development.
"Since it came through HUD, it's like putting an 800-pound body on a Chihuahua head," Boedeker said, referring to the large volume of paperwork required by the federal agency in order to receive grant approval.
Love INC wants to build the Family Hope Center, a 30-unit, two-story transitional housing facility on an eight-acre, triangular-shaped piece of city-owned land next to the Alaska State Troopers E Detachment post on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
The city has not yet decided whether to donate the land to the project, but the council, last fall, approved a resolution authorizing the grant application.
Regardless of the fact the city would only serve as the pass-through agency forwarding the grant funds to Love INC, the city would be required to comply with the HUD requirements, including meeting federal fair housing standards and providing demographic information on all city employees, according to Boedeker.
Under the community development block grant, the project would need to be completed within two years of the grant approval, and if Love INC failed to complete it on time, the city would be responsible for refunding the grant money to HUD.
"At this point, this is a much bigger issue than we're prepared for," said Boedeker.
He suggested Love INC might want to back out of the block grant, as well, and seek other grant funding sources.
Love INC Executive Director Ingrid Edgerly was not available to comment Thursday.
By unanimous vote, the city council reestablished the cemetery task force during Wednesday's meeting.
Prior efforts of the task force to find a suitable piece of government-owned land failed and Boedeker said earlier the task force should not be restricted to only looking at government land when the group reconvenes. The purchase of privately owned land also should be considered.
Mayor Dave Carey said he has asked former Councilwoman Lisa Parker to chair the cemetery task force and he asked Jim Fassler to co-chair. Fassler was a member of the original group.
Carey said the city would begin advertising for up to 12 people to join the task force. As its first priority, the group would look at city property as a possible site for a city cemetery and would view the purchase of private property secondarily.
In other business, the council set public hearings for Aug. 8 on a proposed ordinance regulating residential development in the city's commercial district, the limited commercial district and the Kenai River overlay district, and on a proposed appropriation of additional funds for the Soldotna airport improvement project.
All bids received on the project exceeded the engineer's estimate and, in order to meet the lowest bid, the city needs to appropriate $662,127 more, according to the proposed ordinance.
A transfer of that amount from the city's fund balance in the sales tax fund would increase the budget to $3.6 million. The city has applied for federal and state grants totaling $3.4 million for the project. The council is to consider awarding a contract on the airport improvements at its next meeting, according to Boedeker.
City Clerk Teresa Fahning announced the filing period for city council candidates will be Aug. 1-15. Council seats up for election are those of Shane Horan, who is completing the remaining one-year term of Lisa Parker's seat; Jane Stein, who has said she is not running for reelection; and Ed Sleater.
Following a closed executive session to discuss upcoming contract negotiations with city employees, the council reconvened and thanked Tashina Wortham-Turnbull for serving as the ex-officio student representative on the council during the past year.
Wortham-Turnbull said the position "has been very much a blessing" for her and thanked the council for allowing the position to remain open for future student representation.
"This is a blast working with the city," she said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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