The Castle Rock Senior Center will be unable to apply for 2016 federal monies from the Community Development Block Grant, which provides funding for nonprofits working with low- and moderate-income people, because of a recent town council decision …
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The Castle Rock Senior Center will be unable to apply for 2016 federal monies from the Community Development Block Grant, which provides funding for nonprofits working with low- and moderate-income people, because of a recent town council decision to bow out of the program.For Douglas/Elbert Task Force, which is based in Castle Rock and received close to $40,000 in grant money in 2015 for emergency rent, utility and overnight lodging assistance, that decision means it cannot use any of those funds to serve Castle Rock residents.The council's 5-1 vote on Aug. 18 came after lengthy discussion and public comment that urged the city not to accept federal money."Let's get out,” said Councilman George Teal, who initially supported participation in the program. He noted the option to participate would be presented again next year. “If there's pain to be felt, let's feel that pain — let's go through it. It's a year. We have received over and over again that we are above budget on our sales tax income. We are well below budget, at least on one quarter this year, in terms of expenses. We are not hurting for cash. I think we listen to our residents.”Officials at the task force, a nonprofit that helps about 15,000 people throughout Douglas County annually with food and housing assistance, declined to comment.But Rich Smoski, board president at the Castle Rock Senior Center, said the council action will affect the organization at some point.The center, which provides services and wellness activities for seniors applied for funding in 2015, but did not receive any. “But we would have applied for it again next year," he said.Town staff recommended continued participation in the program.“There are some not-for-profits that are based in Castle Rock that may be impacted if we say we don't want any CDBG funds in our community,” Town Manager David Corliss told the council. “The task force has received funding and that may be affected.”The lone dissenter was Councilman Chip Wilson, who urged fellow councilmembers to continue the town's participation as a grantee under Douglas County. Councilman Brett Ford was absent.It is the best road to go right now without closing the door,” Wilson said. “Let's let the county take the lead on it.”Castle Rock has participated in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, administered by Douglas County, since 2006The county received $1 million in 2015 to disburse among nonprofits who applied for grants. Because the town's population has exceeded 50,000 — the first in the county to do so — it became eligible to become an entitlement grantee, which means it would receive money directly for town organizations, in this case, $212,000.But by Castle Rock declining to participate, Douglas County's annual allocation in CDBG funds for 2016 will be reduced by $212,000.When a jurisdiction is given that opportunity, it is really their choice to decide which way they want to go with it,” said Jennifer Eby, community and resource manager for Douglas County.Organizations based in Castle Rock can still apply for grants through the county. However, they or any other organization in the county receiving grant money will not be able to use any of those funds to service Castle Rock residents. Additionally, if 51 percent or more of an organization's service population comes from Castle Rock, they are ineligible to apply for salary or facility improvement funding.The Castle Rock Senior Center is one of those organizations.The center had previously used that grant money to pay for its transportation coordinator salary. But the lack of it will not stop them from servicing the community, Smoski said.“It does affect our overall planning. However, at this point in time, we're going to find other methods to fill that gap,” he said. “Right now, we're not looking to cut anybody. We're not looking to make any drastic changes to the transportation program.”The main objection to the grant program cited by council and residents at the meeting was concern about federal government overreach and relinquishment of local control.“Wading into the quagmire of federal funds is never a good idea,” said Castle Rock resident Jeff Meek, who spoke during the public comment period.Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Green presented her research of the grant participation to the council, citing concerns over restrictions Housing and Urban Development could put on the town if it became an entitlement community.“I want no part," she said.Councilwoman Renee Valentine said she had heard from quite a few residents in her district urging her to vote no.“I don't want to open this up as far as taking any money from the federal government,” she said.Mayor Paul Donahue raised the most concerns, one being the short time period of two weeks the town staff and council had to review the agreement.“This town has a reputation, I think, of digging down into these issues, giving council all the pros and cons of what this can mean to the town and how it can end up," he said. "And we're not given the opportunity right now to do that.”Later in the meeting, Donahue reiterated the lack of time and information to make a good decision.“We have no guarantee that if we continue status as a grantee that we're going to be able to free ourselves of the federal web," he said. "It's awful because we've got individual nonprofit organizations here in Castle Rock that have become dependent on that money. In my mind, that's what I think the federal government would like — for us to become dependent on that money, too.”
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