After a clerical error in this year’s community development block grant application saw the Island miss out on $2 million in money for child care assistance and housing rehabilitation, Oak Bluffs residents in need will still get some relief from an overlooked program account.
Melissa Vincent of the The Resource Inc., which administers the block grants, told Oak Bluffs selectmen on Tuesday that the town still had $166,000 in so-called program income funds that it could spend on housing rehabilitation. The funds come from families who sell their properties before finishing rehabilitation work and who then have to repay the balance of their 15-year forgivable loan to the town. Ms. Vincent asked selectmen for $130,000 of the program income funds to help six qualified applicants on a wait list with heating, roofing, and siding issues that would have otherwise had to wait until 2012 to join the rehabilitation program.
“You have taken care of so many of your citizens, I don’t know if people quite understand how pleased they should be with the town,” said Ms. Vincent. “These are funds you cannot get anywhere else. People would not have roofs, they would not have heating systems, they would not have siding. We took care of an elderly 82-year-old woman in the town. She was living in one room of her house and she had a small space heater in there and that was taking care of all the needs she couldn’t afford. She had holes all over her roof, she had buckets everywhere and without this sort of a program that’s the way she would still be today.”
Selectmen unanimously approved the use of the funds.
On Tuesday selectmen also approved a warrant for a special town meeting set to take place on Nov. 8. Selectmen hope that the warrant articles, if approved, will finally put to bed an era of imprudent spending and shaky bookkeeping.
One asks the town to transfer funds from the community preservation committee or to raise and appropriate money to cover a $75,000 shortfall in the Seaview Heritage project, a project that includes renovation of the town comfort station as well as drainage repair in Waban Park. The project budget, originally set at $750,000, has swelled to $874,432.62.
“This is clearly the result of not having careful enough project management and accounting,” said board chairman Kathy Burton.
Another article asks voters to return $342,131.46 in unused Community Preservation Act monies from the Bradley Square affordable housing project to the communtiy preservation general fund. Voters previously approved $400,000 in CPA money for the project, which later failed. The property has since been sold into the private market. On Tuesday selectman and board chairman Kathy Burton saw it as a symbol of a less fiscally responsible time.
“I think it’s quite clear to me that we need different policies and procedures for these projects going forward and very, very careful accounting as well as project management, because you say to yourself where did the money go and why isn’t it $400,000 coming back?” she said.
The town released $68,000 for architectural fees for the project that was never returned.
“That’s why we need an administrator and a set of procedures to see how this sort of accident can be prevented in the future,” Ms. Burton said.
Finally the town proposes to balance its books by cutting $304,717 from the town budget at the special town meeting. The cuts will offset $309,988 in appropriations and transfers to cover budget shortfalls including money to pay for interim town administrator Robert Whritenour as well as town accounting services.
“It will give the town enough to make up [fiscal year 2011 revenue deficit], have a balanced budget and set the tax rate we hope on time for January,” said Mr. Whritenour.