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Community Development could face drastic cuts

Robert DeMore, director of Onondaga County CDBG, recently asked Marcellus Mayor John Curtin to write a letter of support to Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, though DeMore says the congresswoman has expressed support for the program.

"[Community Development] is one of the few sources of revenue that remains for the villages and towns in Onondaga County to fund projects that are of such scale that it becomes almost impossible for local residents to finance in their entirety," Curtin wrote in a letter to Buerkle's office dated March 10.

Congress proposed a 63 percent cut to federal funding for the Community Development Block Grant program for 2011 in February; the Senate defeated the measure March 9.

Congress is now deciding just how much funding to cut from the program, as it works toward a compromise with the Senate.

Curtin said the program provides "tangible results, and it's for infrastructure that's already in place."

This helps prevent suburban sprawl, he added. In his letter, Curtin said the village has for years benefited from the program, which was started by President Gerald Ford in 1974.

"Twenty years ago, Mayor Martin Sennett first began to use [community development] monies for the reconstruction of Main Street, and he was followed by Mayor Fred Eisenberg, whose vision for infrastructure improvements, sewer lines and streetscape improvements not only complemented those of his predecessor but led to continued efforts to do the same by his successors in the office," Curtin wrote.

DeMore said Onondaga County's Community Development budget for this year is around $7.4 million - a 63 percent cut takes that number down to around $2.74 million. The CDBG program aims to ensure decent affordable housing, to provide services to the most vulnerable in our communities, and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses.

"It's not a program of some huge bureaucracy that doesn't do something," DeMore said in defense of protecting the program from drastic funding cuts. "This creates jobs; local contractors do all the work for this program."

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