Tuesday, November 16, 1999

Grants to pay for 10 homes, center

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ten homes for low- and moderate-income families in Newport and a senior citizen center in Independence will be built with nearly $1.3 million in federal grants handed out Monday by Kentucky officials.

        The money, from the federal Community Development Block Grant program, was presented by Kentucky Department of Local Government Commissioner Bob Arnold and Sally Davis, a representative of Gov. Paul Patton.

        Newport received $1 million for a new agency formed by the city and the Newport Housing Authority, which will use the money to build 10 homes in a blighted area on Eighth Street between Isabella Street and Central Avenue.

        The homes will be built on property owned by the Housing Authority and will help the city achieve its goal of increasing home ownership.

        “Everybody talks about the economic development in Newport, with what is going on with the aquarium and on the riverfront, and those projects are great,” said Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli. “But building homes in the city is great for developing our community, and that's what we are doing here.”

        The grant money will pay the homes' construction costs. After they are purchased, the city can use that money to build more homes under the same program, Mr. Guidugli said.

        State Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, who represents Newport, said building homes will also help the Newport City Schools, which has seen its enrollment drop in recent years because of families leaving the city. “We need housing programs like this so people can move into and stay in Newport,” he said.

        The homes will sell for about $92,000, said Rhonda Burgin, the city's Housing Development coordinator.

        “This is the first new housing we've had built in that neighborhood in years, so this is a real boost for the community,” Ms. Burgin said.

        Applicants for the homes will be screened by the Brighton Center, a Northern Kentucky social service agency. Buyers must currently live in public housing and meet income levels. For instance, a family of four can earn about $40,000 and still qualify, Ms. Burgin said.

        Independence received $270,000 to build the senior center. The city will match the grant. The center will be built just off Madison Pike behind the new firehouse.

        The city and the senior citi zen community have been pushing to build a senior center for five years, said Councilwoman Donna Yeager, one of the major catalysts for the project.

        “She's been moaning, pleading and begging me forever,” Mr. Arnold joked about Ms. Yeager's persistence.

        “I guess all my moaning paid off,” she said, holding back tears as Mr. Arnold presented her with an oversized copy of the $270,000 check.

        “We need something here for people to go and talk to other people,” said Marietta Miller, 69, of Independence. “Right now, a lot of older people just stay by themselves because they don't have anyplace like this to go.”

        The center will feature a community room and activity center, and a kitchen for the local Meals on Wheels Program, which provides daily hot meals to senior citizens.

        Construction will begin in the spring. It will take nine months to a year to complete.

        Mr. Arnold said the state had $33 million in federal money to pay out, but requests for $288 million in projects.

        “You have to have a good project to get any money, and both of these are good, worthwhile community projects that are going to touch a lot of lives,” he said.


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