50 attend Mesa Springs CDBG phase-out meeting

       About 50 Mesa Springs residents turned out Dec. 11 for a meeting on the planned Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) phase-out in their neighborhood.
       Don Sides, who heads up the development wing of the city-run, federally funded program, told the group that after 20 years and nearly $1.2 million in Mesa Springs capital improvements, the city believes it is time to devote its resources to other eligible areas of the city.
       However, $100,000 still remains in the neighborhood's CDBG fund, and Sides asked residents to send in suggestions for improvements that could go in next year. He is also continuing to work with the Mesa Springs Community Association, which is the city-recognized advocacy group for the area, which takes in about 750 households south of Fillmore Street, west of I-25, north of Uintah Street and east of the open area from Sondermann Park up to Fillmore.
       Sides added that another Mesa Springs meeting (the city is calling it a “public hearing”) will be scheduled in late January or early February. Holding two hearings complies with the city's established NSA phase-out policy; he will also be required to give a report to City Council.
       Although the phase-out will be finalized “probably toward the end of 2008,” some money will be made available through '09 to continue supporting the association's costs, he said. These costs are for printing and mailing a one-page newsletter to all the households eight times a year and for holding meetings and an annual picnic, according to George Gravenstein, association president.
       He appealed to the throng to become association members ($5 a year dues) to help cover its costs after '09. In response, he said afterward that eight new people joined. However, about 200 members would be needed to keep association activities going at the current level, and there are now only about 30, he said.
       There appears to be no active opposition to the phase-out. Some residents, evidently newer to the area, were not aware of how the program has worked and asked various questions. Sides answered them as part of a PowerPoint presentation showing that federal funding for CDBG first started coming to Colorado Springs in 1972. Mesa Springs became a CDBG Neighborhood Strategy Area (NSA) in 1986 in conjunction with a city master plan for the area that talked non-specifically about neighborhood preservation, land use and other issues. Most of the capital improvements since '86 have been sidewalks and curb and gutter, as well as some storm sewer upgrades, said Sides, who has held his CDBG post cumulatively for more than half of that time frame.
       “They've done a lot in the 20 years, they really have,” Gravenstein said. “Don has always been good about helping out in our neighborhood.”
       Sides pointed out that Mesa Springs still qualifies to be an NSA from an income level standpoint (51 percent of its residents considered to have low or moderate incomes). The situation is that there are other eligible areas that could use the help and, with reduced federal money coming in, the city can't add new NSAs and keep all seven of the existing ones, Sides explained.
       Other NSAs being phased out in '08 are Knob Hill and Hillside, with Adams to go in '09. The Westside NSA, the older-Westside area represented by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), is not slated for phase-out until 2026, according to a document Sides provided at the meeting.
       He mentioned that there is another sidewalk/curb and gutter option, after CDBG is gone from the area, and that's the citywide Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), which takes requests for sidewalks repair. (See story starting on Page 3.)
       Unchanged by the CDBG phase-out will be the city's no-or-low-interest housing rehabilitation program, which continues city-wide, said city rehab specialist John Ballweber in a brief presentation during the meeting.
       The meeting turnout was one of the highest in memory for the Mesa Springs Community Association, possibly because the city sent postcards to each of the residents indicating the loss of the city program, Gravenstein said.
       He added that he had previously let people know the phase-out was coming, but was not sure if it had sunk in. “I think they got the message last night,” he said the day afterward.

Westside Pioneer article