City projects to get boost from federal cash


First Posted: 9/5/2013

Nearly $300,000 in federal funding is on its way to three projects in Pittston.

The city held a public hearing Tuesday, as required by law, to talk about 2013 community development block grants.

The three plans, which will get about $100,000 each, are the city’s neighborhoods initiative, Pittston Memorial Library’s expansion and City Hall improvements.

“We’re continuing the redevelopment of the city and starting our improvement project in the neighborhoods,” said Joe Chacke, executive director of the city’s Redevelopment Authority.

The money comes from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and it funneled to cities such as Pittston through the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Community Development Block Grant is one of the longest-running HUD programs. It funds local community-development activities such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development.

Neighborhoods

initiative

Officials are planning to use a third of the grant as matching funds for a HOME grant from the state, Chacke said. The goal, he said, is slum and blight removal as part of the city’s neighborhoods initiative.

Substandard, deteriorating and unoccupied homes and street crowding have been causing the tax base to decline. Sprucing up neighborhoods, acquiring tax sale and foreclosure properties, tax rebates, creating a housing impact team and imposing a moratorium on converting single homes to apartments are all planned.

The cash would be used for a program that would help low to moderate income homeowners with some home rehabilitation projects, including energy efficient windows and doors. A resident would have to meet income guidelines and provide various documentation.

The first targeted area is from South Main to Vine Street, from East Oak Street to Market Street, Chacke said.

“It’s part of the Elm Street theory,” he said. “We’re coming off Main Street and moving into the neighborhoods.”

The program will be likely be unveiled next year, when more of the funding is secured.

City Hall

The City Hall upgrade will pay for an elevator in City Hall and handicapped-accessible bathrooms. Additionally, a USDA loan will help move the police headquarters to the basement of the building, the former home of the library.

City Hall was dedicated in 1940 and had some renovations done in the 1970s.

Currently, the first floor includes the city’s administrative offices, treasurer’s office, tax office and the police station and associated offices. The second floor houses the office of the Pittston magisterial judge, council chambers, which also serves as a courtroom, the mayor’s office and the redevelopment authority office. The basement formerly housed the Pittston Memorial Library before it moved to its current home in 2000.

The plan is make the main entrance of City Hall to the left side of the building where the current wheelchair ramp is. The rear stairwell will become an elevator shaft and a new stairwell will be constructed alongside the old one. The police station would move to the basement.

The city will do a space study to see what will move in the first floor space that housed police headquarters.

When the police department moves to the basement, it will go from 790 square feet to about 2,500 square feet.

Library expansion

Pittston Memorial Library’s $1.2 million Cosgrove Annex is a 5,000-square-foot addition will contain a state-of-the-art conference room with Smartboards and WiFi capability, a larger children’s section, an arts and crafts room, teen space, a senior citizen area, a kitchenette, a vestibule, a coat room and additional rest rooms.

A playground and amphitheater is planned for behind the building adjacent to the new children’s wing.

The expansion is part of the library’s Cosgrove Capital Campaign. John Cosgrove, a Washington D.C. insider and Pittston native, donated his personal library, including thousands of volumes, correspondence and memorabilia, several years ago.

When the Pittston library suggested it expand in part to display the collection, Cosgrove donated $50,000 to get the project started. The collection, along with the donation, prompted the library trustees to name the proposed project the Cosgrove Annex and to undertake a major capital campaign to pay for it.

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