The Prince George's County Council approved a program this week that will put federal funds into the rehabilitation efforts in the county's order neighborhoods and poorer rural areas.
More than $6 million in Community Development Funds, allocated through the Neihgborhood Improvement Program (NP) of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow several communities to repave streets, build recreation centers and renovate housing.
Since the program started in 1975, Prince George's has used more than $16.7 million to aid blighted areas and to revitalize neighborhood primarily inside the Betlway.
Council Member Francis Francois, who was among the nine council members who approved this year's allocations, said the county "has restated our affirmative policy of trying to complete projects we have started over the years and in contemplating new approaches in other areas."
During the past few weeks, council members have been working on the county proposal in order to decide where the NIP money will be spent. Through public hearings and work sessions, residents of the affected areas, county executive staff members and representatives from various municipalities have sought funds for their special projects.
And while many projects were questioned as to their suitability for funding, nearly all requests in this election year were approved.
The geriatric health center, which has been managed with NIP funds for three years, came under close scrutiny after it was learned the health department would not receive $25,000 in NIP funds allocated last year because of poor record keeping by the department.
Council members said the health department did not keep adequate records, treated ineligible senior citizens and did not attempt to collect fees through private and public insurance programs.
"It's just a screwed-up program," said Council Member Frank Casula. "In the past, (the county) didn't do its job. We screwed up."
but the council recommended that the county fund the center to the tune of $111,000 anyway. With several senior citizens sitting before them, the council committee studying the NIP proposals voted to give the center an additional $26,000, to be kept in a contingency fund, should it be needed. The additional funding was made with the stipulation that as agency other than the Health Department be responsible for the clinic's management.
The council also approved $275,000 for the design and construction of a recreation center in Fairmount Heights, even though a similar recreation center is to be built only one mile away in Seat Pleasant.
The staff recommended that the funding be denied because, "Many countyresidents would be unusually blessed with the choice of two recreation centers wihtin walking distance."
However, the council approved the request of the Fairmount Heights mayor, who said the center was badly needed in that community.
Funding for another recreation center in the Palmer Park area caused commotion in the committee session when one council member found that only $100,000 was being allocated to renovate it.
"We're just trying to appease them (the citizens of Palmer Park)," said Council Member Floyd Wilson. "You're not doing anything (for them). What . . . is that going to do for those kids over there."
The proposed funding would be used to renovate the recreation center, play equipment and tennis courts and to relocate ballfields.
"That is the most heavily populated area in the NIP. But it has fewer parks than any other area," said Wilson. The council's adopted proposal would grant $150,000 to two park areas in Palmer Park and Kentland for renovation.
At a second work session earlier this week, the council added several new projects with funds they were able to retrieve through cuts in administrative costs for the NIP program. A well-organized push by citizens of Rogers Heights provided enough incentive for council members to allocate $15,000 for a design program to build sidewalks in that community. The allocations also include funds for new programs in Riverdale Heights, Templeton Manor and East Pines.
The proposals will now go to HUD, which has 75 days to review the plan. HUD must approve the proposals.
Projects recommended by the County Council for NIP funding:
Palmer Park and Columbia Park: $657,000 for acquisition of dilapidated housing, park construction, rehabilitation loans and grants and relocation funds.
White House Heights: $385,000 for street design and construction.
Brentwood, North Brentwood and Cottage City: $460,000 for acquisition of dilapidated housing, public works improvements, clearance and demolition, rehabilitation loans and grants and relocation funds.
Highland Park: $40,000 for curbs, gutter and street resurfacing, land disposition.
Chapel Oaks, Cheverly: $105,000 for street and storm drainage improvement, bridge repair.
Deanwood Park, Beaver Heights: $630,000 for street, storm drainage and flood control, park development.
Fairmount Heights: $275,000 for constuction of recreation center.
Seat Pleasant: $150,000 for upgrading of street and storm drainage.
Cedar Heights, Jefferson Heights: $510,000 for street construction.
Edmonston: $57,000 for bridge repair, residential buffers and beautification projects, replacement of curbs and gutters.
Rural Enclaves: $333,000 for acquisition of substandard housing, installation of deep wells and septic system, clearance and demolition of housing, rehabilitation loans and grants, realocation funds.
Takoma Park: $125,000 for housing rehabilitation grants and loans, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, street resurfacing and planting.
Greenbelt: $15,000 for sidewalks construction.
Hillside: $30,000 for street design and construction.
Other program: weatherization, geriatiric clinic, rural transportation, neighborhood commercial revitalization.
Administration and program support: $1,182,000.
Contingency funds and local-option activities: $418,000 for land acquisition in commercial areas, renovation of schools and additional funding geriatric clinic.