Harrisburg City Council approved its annual allocation of federal development grants to local service groups on Tuesday night, but not before making one significant change to a proposal from the city’s administration.
In a rare close vote, council voted 4-3 to direct a $15,000 grant to Breaking the Chainz, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth and released offenders.
The funds come from the city’s annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a program of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The city’s Department of Community and Economic Development, which screens and ranks grant applications, did not recommend Breaking the Chainz for any funding this year. Romulus Brown, a project manager in the city’s housing bureau, said that the group submitted an incomplete application.
But economic development committee chair Dave Madsen advocated for Breaking the Chainz to receive funding. He said that council has previously strayed from its application ranking system to provide funds to worthy organizations and argued that Breaking the Chainz provided valuable youth enrichment activities.
Brown confirmed that Breaking the Chainz was an eligible program under CDBG guidelines. Council tried to award the organization CDBG funds last year, but determined it did not meet program requirements.
This time around, council President Wanda Williams and council members Ben Allatt and Ausha Green agreed with Madsen and voted to carry his amendment. Council members Cornelius Johnson, Westburn Majors and Shamaine Daniels voted against it.
“This organization does great work,” Johnson said before casting his vote. “I just believe our process should be transparent… and we should set clear expectations for a competitive grant process.”
In order to give $15,000 to Breaking the Chainz, council reduced a proposed grant to TLC Work Based Training from $45,000 to $30,000. Other grant recipients include:
- Christian Recovery Aftercare Ministries (C.R.A.M.): $40,000
- A Miracle 4 Sure: $50,000
- Latino Hispanic Community Center: $25,000
- Fair Housing Council: $25,000
- PPL/IN HOUSE: $20,000
- Shades of Greatness: $15,000
- Heinz-Menaker Senior Center: $25,000
- Neighborhood Dispute Settlement: $5,000
- TriCounty HDC: $250,000
- Habitat for Humanity: $100,000
- Housing Rehabilitation Programs (city-run): $321,642
As in past years, almost $600,000 of the city’s $2 million CDBG grant will go to debt service. They city is still repaying federal loans it backed for development projects under former Mayor Steve Reed, including the disastrous Capitol View Commerce Center project, which went bankrupt before being completed years later by a new owner.
In addition, $408,000 will go to CDBG administration.
Council also approved two new downtown apartment projects on Tuesday night. The first, proposed by the Executive House Apartments, will convert commercial space at 101 S. 2nd St. into 15 residential units.
Another project, proposed by Harristown Development CEO Brad Jones, will convert an office building on Pine Street into 45 residential units and retail space. Williams, who has been critical of Harristown’s downtown redevelopment efforts, cast a vote against the project.