Six hopefuls pitch projects for 2017 Community Block Grants

Community group leaders wait their turn to tell officials from the Housing Finance Authority why their 2017 projects are worthy of finding through a CDBG grant. Photo by Judi Shimel.

CRUZ BAY — Community groups with an eye towards making St. John a better place to live met with officials from the Housing Finance Authority April 5. They met at the Cleone Creque Legislative Conference Room to pitch proposals for 2017 Community Development Block Grants.

Six applications for St. John projects were discussed at the first public hearing for the 2017 Discretionary Fund. They are expected to compete with 38 other requests from St. Thomas and St. Croix in this grant cycle.

The St. John hearing was the second in a series of three. The third was held April 6 on St. Thomas.

Vounteer provided emergency services, domestic violence response, transportation for seniors, youth services, and recreational facilities were pitched for funding. VIHFA Program Manager Antoinette Fleming began by giving applicants an overview for the 2017 funding cycle.

Fleming suggested the competition will be stiff. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not released a figure for how much funding will be available to the Virgin Islands this year. Last year, the territory won $607,775.

Plans promoted by the six St. John applicants were ambitious. They included requests for things that represent vital services. Family Resource Center Executive Director Vivian St. Juste asked for enough to keep a social worker in service.Right now, St. Juste said, services provided by social worker Annette Smalls are all that’s available on St. John. Human Services has not had a social worker on staff on island for several years, she said.

“This proposal is to maintain this needed position, part of her salary, also some materials and some transportation,” the director said.

FRC is asking for $19,675.60 to cover half a salary and cover the cost of transportation and some materials needed in the St. John office at Myrah Keating Smith Clinic.
St. John Rescue is seeking funds to build a headquarters  and operational base in Estate Glucksberg. Board member Ian Samuel said that funds secured through previous grants helped purchase a parcel on which to build. He also acknowledged that any CDBG funds awarded in this cycle would not be enought to complete the building project.

St. John Community Foundation submitted two applications to VIHFA. One is to support St. John Dial-A-Ride, a service that provides transportation assistance to elderly and disabled island residents.The other request, for $120,000 would help establish a marine program for youth at the Guy Benjamin Elementary School. The project is called the Coral Restoration Lab & Aquatic Education Program, but proponent Tom Buttermore said the first goal would be to teach as many participants swimming skills as possible.

Buttermore said the program has already reached an agreement with the Department of Education for learn to swim programs, to provide lifeguard training opportunities and to famiiarize youth with opportunities within the local marine industry.Sports, Parks and Recreation is asking for $550,000 to demolish the existing recreation center and build a new one. Samuel also gave the pitch for this project to VIHFA offficials.

If funded, the new center would replace the Youth Action Center that was built in 1991 with sweat equity by area residents and donated materials from local businesses.

SP&R is also seeking $70,000 to build a new backstop, statician’s booth and press box behind home plate at the Winston Wells Ball Park.