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Flaws, omissions demolished HUD plan



Published: Sat, January 23, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

The Valley’s $32.4 million application ‘does not demonstrate any experience with demolition,’ an evaluator wrote.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN — Evaluations from two U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employees described the Mahoning Valley’s $32.4 million housing proposal as incomplete, unclear and flawed.

The nine-community proposal sought to use $7.9 million of the funding to demolish 1,603 structures. The application needed to demonstrate the Valley had demolished at least 75 units in the past two years.

Youngstown, alone, took down 200 houses in the second half of 2009.

But the application “does not demonstrate any experience with demolition,” a requirement to be considered for funding, according to a seven-page summary compiled by two unnamed HUD employees who reviewed it.

“The applicant does not expressly detail the number of demolished units over the past 24 months,” one evaluator wrote in the review. “With demolition such a significant portion of the application, this could be an issue.”

Bill D’Avignon, Youngstown Community Development Agency director who spearheaded the failed application, provided the HUD evaluations Friday to The Vindicator.

The failure to include any information on demolition and the ability to implement the program as well as not including a list of “key staff and their day-to-day activities” doomed the proposal, according to the report.

The proposal received only 15 points out of 40 in the categories of “demonstrated capacity and relevant organizational staff.”

At least 30 points were needed for applications to move to the next level of evaluation.

One HUD evaluator gave the proposal 77 points out of 150.

He stated that the report was missing several basic pieces of information, such as its demolition experience and how demolition would affect low-income residents. It also failed to detail how vacant land redevelopment would stabilize the communities.

This evaluator sprinkled sad and indifferent faces icons — and only one happy face — in his report, depending on the topic.

A second HUD evaluator gave the proposal 111 points. A successful application needed a score of at least 115 to be considered for funding.

That second evaluator wrote: “This is a very solid application with a well-crafted approach. However, the applicant does not clearly discuss how they will manage a program of this size with many different partners. The applicant does not discuss how the partners will work together.”

“Lastly, the applicant does not detail the key city staff and their roles with the project,” the second evaluator continued. “The one other question is the level of demolition experience. It is clear that [Youngstown] has experience with demolition, but it is difficult to discern how much and when.”

The second evaluator also said the “lines of authority [of implementing the program are] very weak.”

HUD officials met with Valley leaders Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to discuss the failed application.

When the announcement of grant winners was made last week, and the Valley wasn’t on the list, local officials, including Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, criticized HUD officials for the decision.

At the time, Williams said, “It literally defies belief and explanation.”

Ryan also said he was “stunned” by the announcement.

After learning from HUD that the problem was with the application, neither were apologetic.

“HUD discriminates against smaller cities,” Ryan said Friday. “These cities don’t have the resources to put these proposals together. HUD needs to help and assist smaller areas. We don’t have the resources to compete against the big cities. There is still an inherent bias at HUD.”

Also, Kirk Noden, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, said despite the deficiencies in the local application, the failure is with the federal agency.

MVOC had three staff members review the application last summer, and Noden attended Wednesday’s meeting with HUD.

“The bottom line is not every community gets treated fairly,” he said. “There’s something wrong with the process. It should be an allocation. If the money doesn’t come here, the problem is with HUD policies” that favor larger cities.

Noden acknowledged the Valley has “to play the game better, but the rules also need to be changed.”

Regardless of the shortcomings in the Valley’s application, Noden said, “We stand by the basic premise that the Valley gets left out of funding it needs.”

Other Valley communities that were part of the proposal were Warren, Niles, Girard, Campbell, Struthers, Lowellville, McDonald and Newton Falls.

HUD received 482 applications, and approved funding for 79.

The Youngstown CDA spearheaded the HUD application, but doesn’t have the staff to handle such a major undertaking, D’Avignon said.

He also said he’s learned a lesson: “Don’t take anything for granted. Anticipate what they might be looking for.”

Because Youngstown deals often with HUD, D’Avignon said he incorrectly “thought there was some leeway.”

It’s possible that future major grant proposals could be handled by an outside consultant, Williams said. But that wasn’t considered for this attempt because of the city’s success in obtaining other federal money in recent years, he said.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” Williams said. “It’s an assessment after the fact. We have a good track record.”

The city’s CDA wrote grants that resulted in funding for Youngstown from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, the Clean Ohio Fund, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, D’Avignon said.

D’Avignon said Friday that he’s concerned that articles in The Vindicator that scrutinized the application will “hurt future collaborative efforts” in the area.

Michael D. Keys, Warren’s community development director who provided information on his city to D’Avignon for the proposal, said “collaboration is still a good concept.”

Keys said he’d be willing to work with the other communities again on obtaining money for the Valley.

“This grant was a long-shot,” he said. “I wouldn’t hesitate to collaborate again.”

skolnick@vindy.com


Comments

1dawgalong(86 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

What I find disturbing is that a HUD evaluator is reviewing an application, any application, and with 32.4 million dollars on the line does not have any responsibility to pick up a phone, or interview the candidates in person? The needs of communities and the funding approval process takes place based soley on an application? Holy crap!

The government is giving out 2 BILLION dollars based on an application?

If that were the case in real life, we'd all be driving 60k cars and living in 500k homes. My application would be a masterpiece. I'm sure the next NSP application out of Youngstown will have the right answers to the questions that carry the most weight. HUD has given Youngstown the answers to the test.

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2UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Bill D’Avignon should be FIRED!!!

He didn't follow the rules provided by HUD when he wrote the evaluation and none of the DEMOcrooks like Williams or Ryan and their staffs bothered to actually read the application and make sure it was done right. Now everyone is shocked. Don't blame HUD for their mistakes.

What a joke the leaders of this valley are!!!

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3CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

The funding source is usually very specific in what they want to see in a grant proposal. Writing a federal grant is a huge undertaking and it sounds like it was done by amateurs and not professionals. There are a handful of wonderful grant writers and some good grantwriting resources in the area. Sounds like they weren't contacted. There's just no excuse for such blatant incompetence.

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4theword(342 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Williams said, “It literally defies belief and explanation.”

Now you have your explanation on why the valley didn't get any HUD money!!

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5anothermike(203 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Goes to prove what I always say [which I wish I didn't have to] is that for the most part we continue to elect idiots and they appoint their unqualified hacks into job positions they have no business having. That being said, since the HUD money was for several communities here in the Valley, shouldn't reps from those communities assisted in preparing the applications?? Just wondering..........

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6news38(9 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

I tried to download the NSP2 application file from the link at the top of this listing but I could not get it to work.
Has anyone else had a problem downloading it?

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7Silence_Dogood(1319 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

If Jay Williams or Timmy Ryan spent only half the amount of time it took them to jet around the world in the last two months ( on the taxpayers dime I might add ) actually reading the specs to this application then they would have known what was required of them. A little bit of light reading on your way to ISREAL might have gotten the City of Youngstown a couple dozen MILLION DOLLARS. A little bit of light reading on your way to Paris France might have gotten the City of Youngstown a couple dozen MILLION DOLLARS. A little bit of light reading on the way to Scandinavia might have gotten the Mahoning Valley a couple dozen MILLION DOLLARS, but then Timmy would not have had enough time kissing Nancy Polosi's azz clean.
Half the time , thats all it would have taken, half the time in the air flying around the world. Time management if used correctly would have brought in $35,000,000 DOLLARS, I dont know about you , but in my eye's thats a hell of a lot of money. GOOD JOB JAY AND TIMMY.

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8Millie(192 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

I was able to see the completed application but we need to see what the instuctions were to see if we did drop the ball on it. The projected unit costs were incredible but then that is the way government does things.

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9mrblue(968 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

How much input did the other cities have in filling out the HUD application? You can't just blame one or two people. I am sure that there are professional grant writers in Youngstown and the surrounding areas that could have been contacted or hired to do the application the right way. I have said it before and I will say it again,--Our leaders are too comfortable in their positions and need to be voted out! We need new people with new ideas to move our valley forward.

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