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City Beat

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by Steven Diegel

The proposed disbursement of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds generated considerable discussion at last week's City Council meeting as representatives from area organizations took the podium to further their appeals for a portion of the pot.

According to city officials, CDBG funds are distributed every year for a number of city concerns, primarily center city efforts such as commercial and residential building rehabilitation, small-business loans and several center city business groups. Any amount remaining from the $2.1 million total is then distributed among community organizations.

But with only $640,553 available to cover nearly $2.4 million in total grant requests, city officials said many groups will go away empty-handed.

"It is a never an easy decision," said Chuck Marinec, the city's grants administrator. "Only oneÐfourth of the total amount requested can actually be funded, so it really becomes a fierce competition."

This year's proposed recipients include the Springfield Family YMCA ($104,000), the Community Schools Project ($84,500), and the Springfield Community Center which would receive funds for the Summer Youth Program ($86,000) and the Family Achievement Academy ($27,000). A number of others would receive smaller amounts.

The council is expected to discuss the proposal and consider possible changes before its next meeting, scheduled for April 27.

The council also heard discussion over a proposal to build a 220-foot telecommunications tower near Fremont Avenue and Kingsley Street. The structure would be the third such to be utilized by Nextel Communications, a telecommunications company seeking to expand cellular and pager coverage to consumers in the Springfield area.

Council members remained somewhat hesitant about the addition, expressing concern over a growing number of towers throughout the Springfield area. The council previously passed an ordinance requiring carriers to collocate antennas wherever possible in hopes of limiting the total number of towers throughout the city.

Patrick Bardone, representing Nextel at the meeting, said every effort had been made to utilize other existing towers in the coverage area, but all were either full to capacity or unsuitable for additional carriers.

The new tower would be equipped to collocate up to two additional carriers in the future, according to City Manager Tom Finnie. It should also pose no health risk to those working or living in the area.

The city has also proposed $2.1 million in budget adjustments for various city departments for pay-plan improvements and other departmental expenditures, specifically changes to retirement plans and previously approved salary and wage increases.

The April adjustments have become common over the past 10 years, giving the city the chance to go back and correct portions of the yearly budget submitted for approval before negotiations were completed.

"Every year when we do the budget we include our salary and wages, but those are not finalized until afterwards," said Fred Fantauzzi, director of Finance for the city of Springfield. "What we have elected to do is have an April budget adjustment" to account for these changes.

The council is expected to approve the measure at its next meeting.

Council members also concluded discussion and approved several issues discussed at the last meeting, including an ordinance which regulates the placement of community corrections facilities throughout the city.

The resolution establishes new location criteria for correctional facilities, including minimum distances of 750 feet from schools, libraries, museums or residential zones and 2,000 feet from any other correctional facility, emergency shelter or soup kitchen.

Developers will also need a conditional use permit, which requires public notification about the facility and a public hearing before final approval could be granted by the city.

A number of area residents previously stated that a conditional use permit would give notice before the addition of any new facility and allow them to express their opinions.

Many said they were not given a voice when the Rivendell facility was built.

The council also voted 7-0 in favor of an ordinance to prevent the dumping of trash and other debris into area sinkholes.

City officials reported the

measures would require violators to clean up affected sinkholes

or face fines to have them clean-ed by the Public Works Department.

If the violator does not cease the nuisance, the new enforcement options would allow the city to deny building permits for the tract of land and have the sinkhole cleaned, with the cost to be passed on to the owner.

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