Recovery Act program causes concern for council members
By LPR Staff
As assistance programs introduced by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act trickle down to the municipal level, Lockhart’s leaders have been charged with the task of determining whether those programs will truly benefit the city and its residents.
One such program, the Texas Neighborhood Stabilization Program (T
NSP), was introduced to the council during a brief meeting on Tuesday evening.
Under the TNSP, which falls under the umbrella of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Community Development Program, the city would be authorized to purchase vacant property within the city limits, build homes on that property and then assist would-be residents in the purchase of those homes.
The homes would be similar to those built by the city under the ORCA Home Program, and would be built using grant funds from TNSP. However, as a reimbursement program, the city would be asked to spend the money up front and wait for reimbursement from the state. That reimbursement proved a sticking point for some councilmembers, as well as for City Manager Vance Rodgers, who brought the grant program to the council for review.
“I’m worried that if we do this, we’ll be repeating old problems,” Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram said, referencing reimbursement headaches and other concerns raised by the Homes program, as well as the mortgage crisis currently plaguing the nation. “We might be helping people get into homes that really can’t afford them, and then our residents will get into the position of not being able to make their payments or pay their taxes, and having their homes foreclosed.”
Rudy Ruiz, the representative of Community Development Management, who would help the city to administer the grants, assured the council that the families assisted in purchasing the homes would be low- to moderate-income families that would be able to qualify for mortgage loans.
However, loan qualifications were only one concern.
“We might put ourselves in a financial bind because of the slow repayment,” said Councilmember Richard Banks, responding to Rodgers’ suggestion that the city might have to pay up to $300,000 up front and wait upwards of 120 days for repayment.
Although the item was placed on the council’s consent agenda and earmarked for “rubber stamp approval,” the council chose to remove the item from that agenda and vote on it separately.
In that vote, the council voted 4 – 1 against participating in the program, with Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada standing alone in support of the program. Councilmembers Paul Gomez and Kenny Roland were absent from the meeting.
In brief news:
Bertram read a proclamation in honor of Relay for Life for Lockhart, declaring April 20 – 26 “Relay for Life Week.” The annual Relay for Life fundraiser will be held from 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 24 – 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 25.
The council also approved a proclamation declaring the week of May 3 – 9 as “Be Kind to Animals Week,” and recognized the staff and administration of the Lockhart Animal Shelter for their work with Lockhart’s four-legged residents.
They approved a resolution that will continue to charge water, wastewater and road impact fees at the current levels set by the city council. Impact fees are charged by the city for new development within the community, in an effort to offset the cost of infrastructure needs that new development will create.
The panel gave the Lockhart Police Department permission to pursue applications for two separate grants that will allow the department to upgrade computers and equipment.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and are televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.