JOPLIN, Mo. —
There’s an alphabet soup of money, programs and organizations bandied about in Joplin these days.
CDBG ... EDA ... TIF ... HUD ...
SPARK ... CART ... JHAP ...
Keeping track of it can become an exercise in “Who’s on first? What’s on second?”
But with hundreds of millions of dollars — not to mention Joplin’s future — on the line, it’s no laughing matter.
Numerous federal and state awards and grants have come Joplin’s way since the 2011 tornado, paying for the cleanup initially, but more recently to help Joplin rebuild and reinvent itself.
The Missouri legislature, for example, appropriated $14 million this spring for infrastructure improvements in Joplin. About $800,000 of that just this month was committed to help pay for stormwater runoff improvements near the new high school.
There’s another $20 million from the federal Economic Development Agency, which will be used for the library portion of the library/theater complex proposed near 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue.
The state also awarded Joplin $4.2 million in tax credits from its Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Program just before that program expired at the end of August. That money is now targeted for a proposed senior housing project.
And, of course, there is the tax increment financing, or TIF, district.
But to date, one of the largest pools of money given to Joplin for its recovery has come from two federal Community Development block grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The first, awarded in 2012, was for nearly $45.3 million. The second, awarded earlier this year, was for nearly $113.3 million, bringing the total to about $158.6 million.
Joplin city leaders have outlined a number of proposals for all that CDBG money, some of which will be highly visible, such as nearly $5.4 million to renovate the long-idle Union Depot downtown, and more than $40 million for the Joplin Commons project at a site still to be designated.
Other spending will be less visible but no less tangible.
About $12 million, for example, will be spent on sanitary sewer improvements. Another $17.5 million will be spent on storm drain improvements, and more than $11 million will be spent on street work and curb and guttering.
Some of the proposals were first outlined by CART, the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, after its members held a series of public meetings for Joplin residents and gathered input. Others emerged as the grants were awarded, including a petition from senior citizens who said they were battling a leaky roof, an outdated kitchen and wobbly tables, and didn’t want to be overlooked.
In the end, the city will have to demonstrate to HUD that it spent at least 51 percent of the money from both grants to benefit low- and moderate-income families in Joplin, according to Troy Bolander, Joplin’s planning and community development director.
With each CDBG grant, HUD officials have to approve an action plan laid out by the city of Joplin that defines how the money will be spent. In the case of the first grant, the Joplin City Council has approved a plan and it has been submitted in full and approved by HUD.
But there are many other steps that have to be taken before work begins, said Bolander. Environmental impact studies are needed, design work has to be done, and in some cases bids have to be solicited and contracts signed before a shovel’s worth of dirt gets turned.
Some of the spending outlined in the first grant includes:
• $12.75 million in direct assistance to help residents buy single-family homes.
• $9 million for the construction of multi-family housing in Joplin, some of it at market rates and some of it for families who need assistance. (Half of that the Joplin City Council has tentatively agreed to award to the master developer, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, for a senior housing project, but no contract has been finalized yet. Bolander said the money could be used to pay for streets and sewers and other infrastructure in the proposed complex around the intersection of 26th Street and McClelland Boulevard, or it could help with construction or other costs, he said.)
• $7.94 million for land acquisition.
• $6.5 million to construct sidewalks, build trails and plant trees.
• $5.4 million for restoration of the Union Depot, which was part of City Manager Mark Rohr’s SPARK (Stimulate Progress through Arts, Recreation and Knowledge) plan outlined just before the tornado struck Joplin.
Although spending for the first grant has been approved by the council and by HUD officials, Bolander said the plan still can be amended if necessary.
The first grant also has no timeline with regard to when the funds need to be spent, he said.
Joplin has only now begun to spend the first of the money from that initial grant, said Bolander, who has been working with HUD and other federal officials on the projects.
The Joplin Homebuyers Assistance Program (JHAP) will pay up to $30,000 of the down payment and closing costs for home buyers who meet income guidelines. Income eligibility has been defined in this case as 120 percent of the average median income for the area, according to Bolander, which means a family of four making up to $60,700 annually would qualify.
The program is not limited to those families who lost their houses in the 2011 tornado, either.
That money comes from that $12.75 million set aside to provide direct assistance to single-family home buyers, and has the potential to help about 400 new homeowners, if each person uses the full amount.
The program launched in August and since then nearly 200 applications have been distributed, and 46 have been received back, with some of the first closings possible by the end of the year.
Although each of the Community Development block grants comes from the same federal agency, there is one important difference, Bolander said. The second grant comes with some deadlines.
Bolander said that once HUD approves the city’s action plan for the second grant, the city has two years to get that work done, but this grant can be approved piecemeal.
So far, the council has outlined the way it wants all of the money spent, and Joplin has submitted the first piece of its plan to HUD — about $8 million that will pay for design and construction work on sanitary and storm sewers, curb and guttering and sidewalks, and more than $300,000 to pay for mental-health services for students in the Joplin School District.
Bolander said the city had hoped to get HUD approval this month for that first proposal, but because of the government shutdown, he said that will likely be delayed. Once a project is approved by HUD, that’s when the two-year clock starts ticking.
Joplin has until 2017 to get all of its action plans approved for the second grant, which means it has until 2019 to get all the work done, said Bolander.
Some of that outlined spending for the second grant includes:
• $40 million for the Joplin Commons, an athletic and recreation center that also would incorporate everything from a new senior center to Little League ballfields and an outdoor skateboard and BMX park.
• $10.35 million for streetscaping along 20th Street.
• $17.5 million for storm sewer repairs.
• $12 million for sanitary sewer improvements.
• $11.4 million for sidewalks and Americans with Disability Act compliance.
• $7.7 million for curbs and guttering.
FEES AND MORE
Bolander said it might be easy for residents to become confused about the use of the money as they see multiple recovery projects under way in Joplin.
For example, the first grant authorizes $2 million for tree planting and the second authorizes $960,000 for that work. But while thousands of trees have been planted since the tornado, none of that has been paid for with CDBG money. In fact, CDBG money can’t be used for trees on private property, but only for trees on public property, such as rights of way and city parks.
Each of the grants also includes many smaller allocations.
The second grant includes $750,000 for mental health counseling services, for example.
Also included in the grants are administration and program fees.
Between the two grants, the city of Joplin and the city’s consultant, Deloitte, will collect about $2.13 million in fees on the first grant, and $3.5 million on the second, for a total of about $5.63 million, or about 3.5 percent of the $158.6 million total.
Bolander said HUD caps administration fees at 5 percent of the total award.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
There’s an alphabet soup of money, programs and organizations bandied about in Joplin these days.
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