County squanders $324,000 grant
March 26, 2013 — A question by a Lassen County Supervisor regarding an update on grants administered by the county’s Department of Planning and Building Services started the wheels of controversy turning.
According to the staff report included with the board packet, the county had not administered a $324,000 housing rehabilitation grant to be used in the South County. None of the money has been spent, and the grant expires June 30, 2013. Anderson said the county received the grant funding in August 2011.
District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick asked that the update report from Maurice Anderson, the planning department’s director, be removed from the consent calendar for separate discussion. The item was agendized as a report only, and the board could not take action.
“I just had a question … ” Wosick said.
“I had a question on that one, too,” interrupted Chair and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson.
“I just had a question,” Wosick continued. “The $324,000. None of the funds have been expended to date, and I noticed that it expires in June 2013, but then it says the marketing of the program will begin in March 2013, basically only giving three months to try and get the money working. I was just curious if there was a reason why … ”
“We’re significantly behind the ball on this program,” Anderson said, “and that is a result of reviewing our guidelines and our program in its entirety … It’s a complicated array of information and protections that’s constantly changing, and, in short, the materials that we have right now are willingfully unacceptable and it was the consensus of myself, Jenna (Aguilera), the CAO (county administrative officer) and county counsel that we weren’t in a position to move forward the way they were drafted. So, it’s one of those situations where we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Apparently Anderson inherited the grant when he was hired and the criteria for its administration had been created by a previous administration.
“We’ve been subject to some litigation,” Anderson said. “We’ve met with the CAO as well as county counsel, and at the end of the day, as it says there, we’ve decided to move the guidelines, the contract, the marketing to a specialized attorney who can help navigate through the things that need to be in those documents. We’re hopeful that this outside counsel can help get those things together for us in an expedited fashion, and we can get going on this and hopefully expend these funds.”
Hanson, who represents the Herlong area, said a lot of grants have “strings attached,” and he asked if the department has asked the state for an extension.
Staff said so far extension requests to the state have been denied.
Anderson said the department is still working with the attorney and still hopes to expend some of the funds before the deadline.
Other grants in the report
Anderson also reported on a number of other grants with more positive results.
A $299,700 Native American Housing Rehabilitation Grant that expires June 30 has expended $113,351 on two separate projects.
An $83,125 Microenterprise Technical Assistance grant expires Dec. 31, 2014. Alliance for Workforce Development will provide technical assistance to all participating businesses. Administration of the grant program began in February.
Another $100,000 Microenterprise Financial Assistance Program grant expires Dec. 31, 2014. None of the funds have been expended yet, but two applications have been received.
A $210,000 Business Assistance Program grant expires Dec. 31, 2014. None of the funds have been expended yet, but two applications have been received.
One of the loan applications the county received requested more funding than the county had available. The county is seeking an over-the-counter loan from the state. If approved, the business will be able to retain 38 employees, including the owners.
Anderson also reported on three completed grant programs.
The Public Facility Project for the Herlong Theatre Building made $48,788 for a new roof at the facility. All the funds have been expended, and the project is complete.
A $33,250 Economic Development Planning and Technical Assistance Grant expired Sept. 20, 2012. All the funds have been expended and the project is complete.
A $34,498 grant for a Public Improvement Project for West Patton Village expires June 30, 2013. All the funds have been expended and the project is complete.
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