JACKSON – With the first hearing past and no ideas presented, the Jackson Township council is again asking residents for ideas for Community Development Block Grants.
Sheri Silversmith, the township’s senior center program administrator, was asked to provide suggestions that she will share at council’s February 14 meeting.
Federally, CDBGs are provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Municipalities not eligible for grants or loans directly through HUD can apply through the state.
Silversmith said she will be applying for the grants through Ocean County.
According to the NJ Recovery and Reinvestment web page, which details CDBGs, funds can be used for “public facilities, community revitalization, housing rehabilitation and innovative development leveraging private investments.”
She plans to submit a proposal to update the senior center bathrooms, making them more energy efficient and easily accessible. That proposal will go out in late February.
The senior center building, on Don Connor Boulevard, was built around 1980, Silversmith estimated. The bathrooms are as old as the building and need updates, including automatic doors and more toilets that are raised and have rails. The women’s bathroom in particular, Silversmith said, has only one raised toilet, which sometimes causes a long line to form outside the bathroom, which is located in the building’s main lobby. While the center does have people of all ages visiting, she needs more than one of the four stalls for accommodate those using walkers.
Council president Kenneth Bressi said he praised Silversmith’s acumen when navigating the grant process and requirements. He “100 percent” supports Silversmith’s proposal, but is open to other suggestions.
“Offhand, I can’t think of a better project,” Bressi told The Jackson Times. “There are so many requirements the way you can use this money that the project has to fit into.”
He continued: “The senior center is really used. Our senior center is very very active. I have no problem with it. If somebody comes up with something better, I would look at that too.”
Silversmith said the township gets between $135,000 to $150,000 each year.
“The dollars are allocated. This means Jackson receives the grant based on factors of our population. Jackson submits the grant based on preliminary numbers based previous years’ grant awards,” Silversmith said. “The bathroom updates would keep in the above range and will be finalized once the grant is awarded.”
While urban areas get money directly from the federal government, other municipalities must go through a competitive bid process. “Applications that meet the basic requirements of the program will be scored based on municipal distress, readiness to proceed, balance ratio (the remaining balance of grant awards received in a funding category over a three-year period and including all open grants), and past performance,” the program website said.
Jackson Township has received grants for over the past five years for projects like the “I Can” playground, which is a fully ADA accessible playground; the Spray Park at the Justice Complex, which opened last year; and the Senior Center addition project, which is set to start by the end of the February.
If the bathroom project is approved by both council and the county, Silversmith said the project should go out to bid by September, and the bathrooms be completed by next spring.