Sunday, October 19, 2003

Ruling on refusing grants awaited



By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ANDERSON TWP. - Hamilton County officials are awaiting an opinion from the prosecutor's office telling them if it is legal for municipalities to reject funding from the county's Community Development Block Grant program.

Over the past 18 months, nearly a dozen communities, including Anderson Township, withdrew from the program to protest a plan to locate additional public housing units throughout the county.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds that would have gone to community improvements, including roads and public parks, have remained in county coffers.

Anderson Township officials say it's not that they can't use the money - although with a $19 million annual budget, the township isn't substantially hurt if it forgoes its $100,000 annual allotment. Instead, it's that this is their only form of protest.

"The county made a link - that if you wanted to continue to participate in the community development block grant, you had to say that you welcomed the new round of housing purchases," said Henry Dolive, Anderson Township administrator.

Anderson Township trustees said housing subsidies would be better. Housing stock would stay on tax rolls and low-income residents could find affordable housing of their choice.

This month, the county sent a letter asking jurisdictions to support a plan to ask the federal government for 75 additional subsidized housing vouchers, increasing the county's total to just under 2,900.

Anderson Township says this is what should have been done all along.

Even so, in the past year, Cincinnati's Metropolitan Housing Authority purchased nine more properties for public housing in Anderson Township, bringing the total to 20.

Dan Domis, Hamilton County's director of community development, said the housing authority can purchase those properties as part of an existing agreement.

"That agreement runs until 2006," he added. The housing authority "has to purchase 450 units (throughout the county). They've purchased a little over 100 of them since entering into the agreement a year ago."

Domis said it's unclear whether Anderson Township and the other jurisdictions that have pulled out of the block grant program "are still bound by the agreement."

. A prosecutor's office spokesman said that opinion could be issued this month.

"It'd be an interesting scenario if we we're forced to take money," Dolive said.

E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com




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