When faced with a choice between two entities vying for grant funding through the city to pay for community projects, Bishop leaders on Monday chose to back local seniors.
The City Council unanimously voted to apply for a Community Development Block Grant on behalf of the Inyo-Mono Advocates For Community Action in its efforts to improve living conditions at the Valley Apartments on Clarke Street. The council said it was a “hard decision” to back IMACA over Mammoth Lakes Housing, which was requesting funds to continue its first-time homebuyers program.
Last month, representatives of both Mammoth Lakes Housing and IMACA approached the City Council asking that the city apply for state Community Development Block Grant funds on their behalf. CDBG money is made available to city entities to help fund local community development projects.
The problem the city faced was that both agencies wanted to apply for the same pool of money and if the city applied for both on behalf of the agencies, it would basically be competing against itself.
Mammoth Lakes Housing was hoping the city would apply for funds for its first-time home buyer’s program, which provides low-interest loans to Bishop residents looking to purchase their first home. Mammoth Lakes Housing said it was hoping to apply for $600,000.
IMACA asked the city to apply for $1 million – the full pool of money being made available to the city – to fund one-third of a project that would demolish and reconstruct the Valley Apartments senior living facility on Clarke Street.
The City Council agreed that both proposals are for worthy projects, and that if it could, it would choose both for grant funding.
The Valley Apartments were created in 1981 when IMACA purchased a local motel and converted it into a senior living facility. Since that time, the facility has seen a number of upgrades, but IMACA officials say the constant maintenance is beginning to outweigh the cost of total reconstruction on the property.
Mayor Laura Smith said she felt the Mammoth Lakes Housing proposal was “very worthwhile, however,” reconstruction of the Valley Apartments “is more needy currently … These places are very, very old and the conditions are very, very poor.”
Smith added that this will not be the city’s last opportunity to apply for CDBG grants, and invited Mammoth Lakes Housing to consider continuing its first-time home buyers program next year.
IMACA’s Larry Emerson said that the demolition and reconstruction of the Valley Apartments will cost an estimated $3 million, which will include relocating the facility’s 19 residents for the duration of the project.
As for relocation, Emerson said IMACA hopes to keep the residents together and find an apartment complex that can house them all. As a last resort, he said IMACA could put all or some of the residents up in a motel during construction.
Emerson said IMACA plans “to use this grant to leverage other funding sources” to generate the $3 million needed for the project. “There are a number of programs we can use with this money to get other money,” he added.
Emerson said the $1 million could probably cover most, if not all, construction costs on the project, but IMACA will have all the funds needed to complete the project before work starts.
Councilmember David Stottlemyre said that he supported IMACA’s plans to reconstruct the senior living facility, but is concerned about the organization’s leadership as it has been operating without a permanent executive director for two years.
“I have the same concerns that David has, as far as everything moving forward,” Councilmember Pat Gardner said.
Emerson said IMACA has been operating under an interim executive director, and with direction from its 12 board members.
He said there are no concerns about the agency’s ability to move forward and see the project through if it secures funding.