The upside to being declared an entitlement community is that the city of Watertown wont have to compete for funding from the Community Development Block Grant program.
It will receive $796,000 in CDBG funding this year, an increase from the $769,785 it had anticipated being allocated. Discussions are underway about how to best use the money.
The CDBG program is operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Funds are made available each year so communities can assist their low- and moderate-income residents as well as focus on issues of blight and problem properties. Projects may include rehabilitating housing, creating jobs and providing job training, child care and health services.
On Thursday morning, members of Advantage Watertown held a brainstorming session on the citys strategy for spending the money, according to a Thursday story in the Watertown Daily Times. Advantage Watertown members suggested using the funding for such things as: neighborhood revitalization, sprucing up properties along Factory Street, concentrating on housing rehabilitation or expanding CitiBus operations with routes that go to retail areas on outer Arsenal Street and to a pair of new apartment complexes in the town of Watertown. The City Council will hold a work session on the plan April 28, with the city planning to submit the plan to HUD within the next couple of months.
All of the potential projects listed have merit. But the item that tops the list, and should be the citys No. 1 priority with this funding, is revitalizing poor neighborhoods.
Stephen A. Jennings won his seat on the City Council last year by campaigning on a plank that included addressing the communitys deteriorating neighborhoods. His unique approach to analyzing high concentrations of poverty in Watertown, driven by data that have been collected, offers a blueprint for where the city should focus its attention.
Now is the time for city officials to make use of the outline that Councilman Jennings has developed and rejuvenate blight-stricken areas. By enhancing the citys housing stock and improving the appearance of poor neighborhoods, Watertown will become more appealing to housing developers and businesses. Creating an abundance of new housing would help lower rental prices and add to the citys tax base, thus providing additional revenue for other necessary projects.