New youth center will have to wait

CITY HALL — Under increasingly narrow federal spending guidelines and pressed for time, the City Council on Tuesday authorized $660,934 in federal stimulus funds for a nonprofit child care center and East Garfield neighborhood improvements.

In doing so, the council rejected an earlier Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee recommendation to peg a large chunk of the money for a new youth center for Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter.

In June, the committee voted unanimously to uphold its original recommendations to allocate $660,934 to New Horizons Family Center and Homenetmen — and a city capital improvement project to be determined. The committee at the time voted against a request from community development officials to reallocate the funds to upgrades for South Glendale Avenue, which has not undergone major improvement since 1992.

But since then, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development apparently narrowed its definition of eligible projects to exclude those related to recreation, a potential deal breaker for Homenetmen, which provides after-school youth sports programming.

Interim Director of Community Development and Housing Jess Duran said the constantly morphing federal guidelines have proved “frustrating for city staff and proved frustrating for committee members.”

“That really threw us for a curve,” he said.

City officials also learned that the South Glendale Avenue project was ineligible because it is a commercial street. They scrambled to find a project that would qualify, settling with the East Garfield project.

The project includes alley improvements to help police access the East Garfield neighborhood bounded by Glendale Avenue, Brand Boulevard, Chevy Chase Drive and Maple Street, according to a city report.

The City Council voted unanimously to earmark $137,944 of the capital improvement funds to New Horizons’ new child care center and the remaining $522,290 to the East Garfield project, which has already received city approval.

The council also voted to approve $132,000 in social service stimulus funds for local employment programs, including $33,000 for job training, despite pleas from advisory committee members and Homenetmen administrators to stick with funding the youth center.

Committee chair Zareh Amirian and Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter Executive Director Armond Gorgorian said the youth center should not be considered a recreational facility, with Amirian arguing that it and the New Horizons child care centers “serve virtually identical purposes.”

Mayor Frank Quintero disagreed, arguing that the two specific projects were “apples and oranges.”

While the City Council agreed with the Homenetmen mission, members said they were not ready to risk $880,934 in stimulus money should an ineligible project be submitted to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the city’s spending plan.

“I’m not about to roll the dice on $880,000,” said Councilman John Drayman.

Instead, the council directed city officials to see if previous block grant funds without the stimulus spending strings earmarked for the East Garfield project could be reallocated to Homenetmen to make up for the lost money.

“If we can, it’s a win-win,” Councilman Dave Weaver said. The city must now submit the spending plan to HUD by Friday.


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