The Odessa City Council voted to approve allocating more than $900,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to various community development activities, including housing.
CDBG is a federal grant program which funds local community development activities like providing housing, anti-poverty programs and infrastructure development. The city received $835,073 in CDBG funds for 2019, had $67,252 in unallocated CDBG funds, and also had $245,777 in 2019 HOME Investment Partnership Program funds, which is another federal grant program assisting in affordable housing.
Community Development Director Merita Sandoval told the council her department was requesting $166,750 for program administration, $398,395 for housing rehabilitation, $225,180 for demolition, and $30,000 for the elderly and disabled lawn mowing program. Merita also asked the council for $50,000 for home buyer assistance, $36,867 for the community housing development organization, and $134,333 for infill housing through the HOME funds.
Infill housing, Sandoval elaborated, is the process of the city taking vacant lots throughout the community and building affordable housing for anyone who applies and meets the criteria. Applicants, she said, who make 80% or less of the area-needed income can qualify for infill housing.
Other allocations included a $45,000 allocation of CDBG funds toward Meals on Wheels, who provide free meals for the elderly and the disabled. Executive Director Margaret Burton told the council these funds were still needed in the community.
“It’s needed and these people worked very hard in the past,” Burton said. “So now it’s our time to feed and take care of them.”
Family Promise of Odessa, which provides housing and shelter assistance to transient families, also received a CDBG allocation of $12,000, and Odessa Affordable Housing received an allocation of $25,000. OAH helps with emergency housing rehabilitation assistance for the elderly, disabled and single parents.
“We still have a great need for Odessa, and again we had another hail storm, so I’m pretty sure we’re already seeing applications and for the next cycle will have a lot more,” OAH Rehabilitation Coordinator Laura Martinez said.
All of the allocations were approved unanimously with a 6-0 vote. Mayor David Turner was out of town.
The City Council also made several board appointments, appointing Cruz Castillo to the Downtown Odessa Board, James Anderson to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and District 1 Council Member Malcolm Hamilton was appointed to the Odessa Housing Finance Corporation board.
Hamilton nominated himself for the appointment after taking the item off the table right before the meeting ended. The appointment was tabled earlier that evening, during the council’s briefing, after there was some discussion whether to appoint Hamilton or Odessa realtor Virgil Trower, who had just applied for the position last week.
District 4 Council Member Tom Sprawls, the only member to vote against Hamilton’s nomination, said he wanted more time to consider Trower. He had said during the meeting he thought Trower could bring a great talent to the board due to his history as having served on the board before.
Hamilton said during the briefing he was having a hard time seeing how the council went from wanting to fill the seat with a council member to not wanting to do that.
“It’s not your commitment to the city that I question,” Sprawls told Hamilton. “Virgil has the history and the talent and the wherewithal to know what they’re talking about. You’re not gonna have to explain anything to him.”
At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean said during the briefing she liked the idea of having someone on the OHFC board who could talk to the council about what they’re doing during the housing shortage, and City Secretary Norma Grimaldo told her they were considering having board members give the council members regular updates on their activities.
Sprawls said after the meeting he voted against the item because he wanted more time to consider Trower, but said he considered what Hamilton did appropriate and not underhanded.
“Sometimes in the government, things move really slowly, and sometimes they move too fast,” Sprawls said.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, THE CITY COUNCIL
- Approved City Council minutes, May 14, 2019.
- Approved City Council workshop minutes, May 14, 2019.
- Approved City Council work session minutes, May 21, 2019.
- Approved City Council workshop minutes, May 21, 2019.
- Authorized Odessa Fire Rescue to accept and appropriate funds from the Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education funds.
- Approved a TxDOT agreement for a temporary street closure.
- Approved a resolution to suspend the June 7, 2019, effective date of ONCOR’s requested rate change.
- Reviewed and accepted the 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
- Approved a Bid Award to Greenlee Lighting Company in the amount of $183,500.00 for the installation of lighting at the Salinas Park Basketball Court and the northeast parking lot at Woodson Park.
- Approved the request of Nestor M. Quinonez, owner, for original zoning of Light Industrial (LI) on an approximately 0.3 acre tract in Section 32, Block 42, T2-S, T&P Ry. Co. Survey, Ector County, Texas (southwest of the intersection of Maurice Rd. and S. County Rd. West) (Ordinance – First Approval).
- Approved the sale of City owned property located at 436 Ann for $45,000.