The Simi Valley City Council listened for more than an hour Monday night as representatives of nonprofit organizations made their pitches for a piece of the $545,774 in federal community development block-grant funding the city will dole out this year.
The city received 21 requests totaling more than $1 million for the block-grant funding from outside agencies and city departments.
Simi Valley resident Sharon Sylchak represented the city's Disabled American Veterans Chapter 55 in its request for $15,000 to purchase a van to transport veterans between their residences and the hospital.
"Fifteen-thousand is not a lot of money," Sylchak said. "But, believe me, it means so much to so many who have given us so much more."
But arriving at the always tough allocation decisions is even more difficult this year, city officials said, because under requirements of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the city must spend more than $1.1 million to make all streets and sidewalks handicapped-accessible by January, 1995.
City staff members had suggested using $520,774 of the funding to begin the mandated improvements.
While acknowledging that the bulk of the grant money would have to be spent complying with the federal law, council members said allocating all of the funds on the traffic improvements would place an undue hardship on local groups working to benefit city residents.
"There are some very good programs here that I think without community block grant funds would never get off the ground," Councilman Bill Davis said.
Mayor Greg Stratton said before the meeting it was unreasonable for the federal government to impose a more than $1-million expense on the city under terms of the disabilities act without providing the money needed to comply.
The council will make its final decision on how the grants will be distributed at its June 14 meeting.