Doyle offers to resolve McKeesport-HUD dispute

July 8, 2011
McKeesport Daily News

McKeesport’s congressman has offered to help resolve the dispute with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over the city’s Community Development Block Grant.

“I know how important (CDBG) funding is for McKeesport,” U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said late Thursday, a day after city council was told $1.2 million in CDBG funding was being held up.

In paperwork sent to city community development director Bethany Budd-Bauer, HUD said the city failed “to affirmatively further fair housing within its jurisdiction.”

With that allegation came HUD pressure to sign “a three-year legally binding agreement (that) if adequately performed, will satisfy the city’s duty.” City officials fear what HUD would consider “adequate.”

HUD’s requirement that the city sign a “voluntary compliance agreement” also is holding up a grant the city expected for a fiscal year beginning March 1, forcing city officials to use general funds for projects normally covered by the CDBG.

“My staff has been in contact with city of McKeesport officials,” Doyle said. “I stand ready to work with the city and HUD to find a satisfactory resolution to this issue.”

HUD officials did not respond by presstime to questions from The Daily News.

The city gets CD funding separately from other area communities tied in to getting grants through Allegheny County and local councils of governments.

Also caught in the crossfire because of the lack of a CDBG are subrecipients, contractors such as McKeesport Housing Corp., McKeesport Neighborhood Initiative and McKeesport Development Corp.

Through the years, city officials said those agencies did not get enough money for their operations and it’s worse now.

“We’re living on a shoestring,” Councilman Darryl Segina, MDC’s chairman, told colleagues Wednesday. “We’re going to lay a secretary off at the end of July, and maybe we will lose our director (Deborah Molinari) come September.”

With MNI’s director Lani Temple in the audience, Segina said MNI has the same problem and Temple also is working without pay.

“We’ve got to get some sort of a summit together,” Segina suggested. He said MDC, MHC and other CDBG-funded agencies will be needed “if this town ever starts to grow jobs.”

Segina also said the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport “is absolutely dead broke.”

RACM did get CDBG funding in terms of the payment of the Section 108 loan covering the Palisades and the Marina at McKees Point, which was paid off in 2009, and for the Vacant Property Review process.

While there is concern about not getting the CDBG funding, there isn’t panic at city hall. Both Mayor Regis T. McLaughlin and council president Michael Cherepko expressed confidence the money eventually will be released by HUD.

Doyle was scheduled to meet city officials about moving his McKeesport constituent office to the old city hall at 201 Lysle Blvd.

The building now is the city’s public safety building and home to offices of Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce and Twin Rivers Council of Governments.

The city is talking to Doyle and former mayor and current state Sen. James R. Brewster about leases.

City administrator Dennis Pittman said the city offered the senator for constituent services the former office at 201 Lysle of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

Brewster would maintain his personal office in the old mayor’s office on the fifth floor of the new city hall at 500 Fifth Ave. Pittman said the city would lease the two offices to state authorities for $15,000 a year