$250,000 OCRA Block Grant training application stymied by City Council's non-action Print
Written by Marcus Amos   
Friday, 16 October 2015 10:17

No action was taken by the Scottsburg City Council at its October 5 business meeting when officials were asked to pass an updated version of its present Fair Housing Ordinance.
Because of that hesitancy on the part of four members of the Council, the City of Scottsburg may lose the chance to obtain a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) available through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). Completed applications for the grant are due on Friday, October 23.
The evening began with Jill Saegesser, director of River Hills Regional Plan Commission, presenting the new ordinance to the Council and Mayor Bill Graham. She said the updated ordinance had different wording in it but basically promises that people of all races, sexes and religions will be treated the same in Scottsburg.
The new Section 9 added by the federal government defines the term “family,” Saegesser explained, as a unit of people living together regardless of sexual orientation.
“We ask that you pass the new version tonight because it is a required part of the CDBG application. The City first passed a Fair Housing Ordinance (FHO) in 2003. You got a copy of the current FHO dated 2013 in your e-mails,” Saegesser stated as she addressed the Council.
Once the ordinance is passed, Saegesser said it will become a part of the completed application for the $250,000 grant. The grant, she went on, will pay for training home care and nursing home staff members who want to obtain their CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistant) titles or HHA (Home Health Aide) certification.
Many times, healthcare workers have little extra money to pay toward these certifications, which can increase their salaries and lead to better positions with more training. “This training grant is a Workforce Development program. If you don't adopt this new version of the Fair Housing Ordinance, we can't apply for the grant,” Saegesser concluded.
Mayor Graham was in favor of the ordinance adoption. “This grant can help a lot of people in our community. We have several partners willing to participate in this training,” he told the Council.
“So it's not an automatic 'rubber stamp' just to go after this grant?” asked Council President Terry Amick. Saegesser replied that passage of the new ordinance “...is one of the steps you must take...”
City attorney Kerry Thompson offered his understanding on the matter, relating that the new ordinance “...is definitely needed for the application to proceed. You sign off on the agreement to meet all (housing) standards.”
“So this Fair Housing Ordinance is applicable to everyone providing housing in the city?” asked Councilman Tom Lewis. Thompson clarified the matter by telling Lewis that there are some religious exemptions, adding, “...but if you are a standard landlord, then, yes, it applies.”
Lewis said he “...just has a difference in redefining the term 'family.' I don't agree with that.”
Apparently, others on the Council also had doubts. While Saegesser waited, Councilman Bill Hoagland made the motion to pass the proposed ordinance, but no one seconded the motion, despite Saegesser telling the Council that around 50 people could receive training with the money the grant would provide.
“If you don't pass this, we get cut off from all HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) grants. A good percentage of these people (which could be helped) will be low-income,” Mayor Graham said in an apparent attempt to influence the Council. “If we don't pass this, it puts the city in a bad spot.”
With the lack of a second, Hoagland's motion died. The ordinance may be revived at the Council's meeting on Monday, October 19, but, in order to meet the October 23 application deadline, all three readings must take place that evening and a resolution approving the application must also be passed by the Council.
The subject caused a brief discussion at the city's Board of Works and Public Safety meeting on Tuesday afternoon, October 13.
At that meeting, Mayor Graham divulged some of the application's background. Saegesser was also present for the board's meeting. Between comments made by them, it was learned that efforts to combine a training effort with Jackson and Jennings counties was tried. It failed because those counties wanted to address training needs in other areas.
“I was told we have a stronger application than what Jackson and Jennings has now, but I don't know about that. I do know that (Scott Memorial Hospital) officials have told me over and over again that they can't get the certified (CNA) people they need. We've got a lot of people in this community who are capable of getting this training and then advance on to something else. I know (the training) will lead to better-paying jobs for these folks,” Mayor Graham related.
Saegesser explained that Jackson and Jennings wanted industrial training and had advised that can and HHA training was provided through healthcare facilities. That is not the case in Scott County, she said.
Mayor Graham said not only is Scott Memorial interested in the city getting the grant but so is Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville. “They could be sending people up to take the training (if the program is established),” he remarked.
Clerk-Treasurer Jan Hardy said she has noticed the scarcity of CNAs in the local nursing facility where her mother lives. “Most of them do try to step up to becoming nurses, so they're always looking for CNAs to join their staff,” she offered.
Even the National Review, a magazine based in New York City, has pointed out the rising need for CNAs and HHAs in the Midwest, added Mayor Graham. “That's because our trend here reflects the aging population and its needs,” he stated.
The last time the city's Fair Housing Ordinance was upgraded by the City Council was when the city applied for a grant to help improve its water treatment facility in 2013. At that time, the Council passed the newer version by a vote of 5-0.
The Council's business meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Scottsburg City Hall.