SPRINGDALE -- The City Council awarded $107,354 of federal taxpayer money to seven area nonprofit agencies, which directly severe clients with housing issues.
The amount represents 13% of the city's annual $713,764 Community Development Block Grant Program administered by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city's now-approved budget for the 2021 grant program also designates $410,726 of the money to housing renovation.
Council member Mike Overton said he preferred to keep the percentage of money going to nonprofit groups at 10%. The council decided years ago to set the cap and put the remaining money to a project renovating older homes, he said. The grant money also pays for city capital improvement projects for public facilities.
Dean Allen, the city's block grant program manager, developed both budgets.
Overton and council member Jeff Watson noted the seven nonprofit groups already received a total of $900,000 from the city through the CARES act. And more that might be coming, Watson said.
An initial vote rejected a budget providing nonprofit groups with $79,345 or 10% of the total grant money.
Council members Kevin Flores, Brian Powell, Randall Harriman and Doug Fougerousse then voted in favor of the 13% budget.
Members Overton, Watson and Mike Lawson voted against it. Council member Amelia Williams didn't attend the meeting.
Mayor Doug Sprouse voted in favor of the 13% distribution plan.
State law requires five "yes" votes from an eight-person council for a measure to pass, said Ernest Cate, city attorney.
The lower percentage would have cut each nonprofit group's total by about $4,000, or by $28,000 total.
The cost of one home renovation was $24,000 to $35,000 last year, Allen reported. The city completed 13 projects with 2020 grant money.
"The cut of $28,000 doesn't sound like much in the city's world, but that money could help thousands or more through nonprofits," said Rachel Cox of Compassion House, a program for pregnant teenagers.
"The $4,000 might make up one quarter of a nonprofit agency's budget, and the loss of it might lead the agency to close," said Nick Robbins of Returning Home, which serves men recently released from prison. "Then the needs of clients who relied on the services wouldn't be met."
Cox noted her funding took a 70% hit during the pandemic, which was made up with the previous grant money from the city
"But we're not there yet," she said. "That's a quarter of my monthly expenses."
The Community Clinic used the money to provide transportation for clients to access the health care they needed -- to come to the clinic -- during the covid-19 pandemic. The money provided 160 visits.
Joshua Bland of First United Methodist Church said the money goes directly to paying rent and utility bills so people can remain in their homes. He noted the $4,000 difference could serve up to 12 families of an average household size.
"I know it's a tough decision," he said. "And we are immensely grateful of your stewardship in the community. But whatever the decision is, know that all the nonprofits will make the most of whatever it is to continue to impact lives in the community."
"With the struggles we've gone through this year, I think the city or the council should act for the greater good and give the extra amount more directly to the people," Harriman said. "I think the number we can reach through the nonprofits could outweigh some of those we could help with building projects."
"No matter which we choose, its one of the few instances that we are directly helping out somebody in the community, and I think that's great," Flores said.
In other business, the council:
• Was introduced to Angie Albright, the incoming director of the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. Albright will replace Alyn Lord who retires in June . Albright has served the museum as development manager since January.
• Appointed Heath Ward to represent the city on the board of directors of the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority for a six-year term. Ward is the executive director of Springdale Water Utilities.
• Authorized buying several acres at 3377 W. Huntsville Road to build a new fire station to replace Station No. 4, which he city has outgrown.
• Approved an option to sell property on McCullough Drive for $260,000 to Community Development Corporation of Bentonville and Bella Vista. The site is being considered for transitional housing.
Breakdown of grant money
Springdale has nearly $800,000 of federal grant money to distribute in the city. Community Development Block Grants will provide money for housing renovation and direct services through nonprofit agencies. The proposed budget for 2021 fund includes:
• Community Clinic: $12,000
• Returning Home: $12,000
• Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northwest Arkansas: $10,000
• Compassion House: $19,345
• Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2952: $15,000
• Post 2952 Auxiliary: $15,000
• First Church, Springdale: $24,000