Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Last Night's Salemtown Block Grant Meeting

The Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee finally reached the end of 6 months of discussions of the pros and cons of the various options facing us for projects to spend federal community block grant money on. We are at last entering a new phase of developing proposals to pitch to Public Works. Among the possible projects that floated to the top of the discussion so far include distinctive street ID signs, traffic-calming bulbs and speed bumps, trash receptacles, and decorative crosswalks.

Another possible project that dominated the final minutes of the meeting was seed money for elderly and children's programs. I did not attend November's CAC meeting (because I was down with that nasty bug that's been going around), but apparently there were fireworks over the seed money option between committee members. At least one proponent of seed money felt that the proposal was not being taken seriously by committee critics for its merits: actual infrastructure improvements to Morgan Park Community Center, like a computer center for children or facility improvements for elderly programming. Reportedly critics dismissed the seed money proposal as being just about programming rather than infrastructure and they said that Salemtown seniors could go to Elizabeth Park (which sits outside of the I-65 loop to the west) for senior programming.

I admit that I had not taken the seed money proposal as seriously as the other proposals myself, because I knew that HUD only allows 15% of a block grant to be spent on programming. Also, when this proposal came up before, it seemed pitched as a church-based alternative to the community center programming. Now that I know that the proposal is directed at infrastructure improvements to the community center programs, it is a more attractive option for me. If we vote on the proposals again, it will be one of my top choices.

One of the things the group agreed on at the end was that we needed to invite Parks Director, Roy Wilson, to come in and speak with us about the Parks Department's renovation plans for the center so that we can decide what kind of improvement proposal to make should the committee choose to go in that direction. We also found out that the community center renovations would begin in February, which will effectively close it down for a while.

1 comment:

  1. I think seed money for elderly and children programs is a wonderful idea. I personally would really like Salemtown to focus on the children of North End. We have a center that is specifically meant for children, but it is done completely half-assed. I would really like to see MPCC become a learning/art center. A center like the Utopia House in Harlem, in the time of Jacob Lawrence. I think something that wonderful would completely change the vibe of our area. The community center needs to be pushed in a more efficient direction and I think the only way that will happen is if there is funding for individual programs. I know a few non-profit organizations who are interested in getting something started over here. Maybe they can team up with the Salemtown CAC.