Block Grant Will Fund Linens Building Demolition

SALISBURY – Mayor James Ireton and city staff asked this week for the council’s approval of the 2011 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Action Plan, in order to get the ball rolling to receive funds to demolish a problem property in a Salisbury neighborhood.

According to the resolution, the Maryland State Office of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has determined that Salisbury qualifies as an “entitled community”. Therefore, the city is entitled to receive CDBG funds directly from HUD upon approval of the city’s annual CDBG Action Plan.

According to the Community Development Department, the 2011 CDBG Action Plan includes the demolishment of the “Linens of the Week” building, which will cost a little under $200,000.

Councilwoman Terry Cohen is concerned over using the CDBG fund to finance demolishing the “Linens if the Week” building because there are variable costs involved with the project, such as remediation efforts that are going to complicate demolition. She asserted that the city has had a number of sewer and water main breaks and it has been discussed in the past to use the CDBG fund to finance the city’s lacking infrastructure.

“It would be my desire to see our CDBG fund continued to be employed more immediately for those types of projects and wait until there is more information and a more extensive plan in dealing with the Linens of the Week building,” Cohen said.

Ireton responded that if the demolition project becomes more intensive than expected, and there is no indication that there will be, the Community Development Department will re-allocate the CDBG money toward another awaiting project. He suggested to the council it would be better to have the fund allocated towards a project for approval rather than “leaving that line blank”.

“We do have the opportunity to take it down and this is the easiest way to put money into the bank and say this is a community development project,” Ireton said. “There is an opportunity to re-program that money … we are going at it in several directions and hoping that we do get it one way or the other.”

Councilwoman Eugenie Shields pointed out the city has re-programed the CDBG money in the past.

“However, when the city accepted this property [Linens of the Week] … council and the public were led to believe that there were other sources of money waiting in the wings to deal with the project and now we have to realize that is the CDBG,” Councilwoman Deborah Campbell said. “We won’t have that money to spend on anything else because we will end up spending it on Linens of the Week.”

Campbell added the council had agreed to use the CDGB money to drive infrastructure improvement that would otherwise be unaffordable in certain neighborhoods.

“I look at this and think what are we thinking, and to that I say no,” Campbell said. “I think we are shorting the neighborhoods that should be benefiting from this money.”

Cohen said that the city has other immediate needs that the CDBG fund could be allocated toward in its approval.

“Linens of the Week are an additional project that the city has taken on and we already have a number of projects in line and waiting for some time,” Cohen said. “I would like to take care of what we have already instead of using this money on something else.”

Shields said that she knows of two projects that are located in her neighborhood that are in need of repair, but both projects’ individual costs are over $1 million and the CDBG fund would not support either project.

“The city has had a couple hearings and has scheduled another public hearing and so far from what I understand … that no one has voiced their opinion to be for or against it,” Shields said.

The council voted 3-2 to approve the razing of the Linens of the Week building financed by the CDBG fund, with Cohen and Campbell in opposition. The next public hearing concerning the project will be held on April 26.