Income rise cuts Red Hook grant opportunities

The median income within the town and village of Red Hook has increased recently, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which makes both municipalities no longer eligible for certain levels of federal funding.

Village officials say the village median income jumped from $36,000 to $56,000 according to the 2010 census.

And while exact numbers for the town were not available by press time, a county official said the town’s income is now at or below the 51 percent low-to-moderate income threshold for grant eligibility as defined by the Census Bureau.

“We’re not saying that the average income rose, but that 51 percent of the people had a family income at or below the eligibility levels,” said Ann Saylor, the community development administrator at Dutchess County Planning and Development.

She also said that 2014 was the first year the Census Bureau based its population and income numbers on the 2010 census, which is why the village was eligible for more funding last year.

Since both municipalities now exceed the low-to-moderate income cap set by the federal government, the grant amounts they can apply for through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program are restricted.

CDBG grants are funded by the federal government but distributed through the county to local governments. They are designated for infrastructure improvements, and in the past, the village of Red Hook has mainly used them for sidewalks and water system improvements, such as reconditioning or drilling new wells.

For the village, this year’s grant maximum has been reduced to $100,000 and only projects that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are eligible.

“It’s census-driven,” village Mayor Ed Blundell told the Observer. “We’re subject to the data, but we don’t fully see the changes.”

“We’ve been making calls and contesting this,” he added. “The only way to get more money is to do an income survey of the village and we don’t have the mechanism to do that.”

An income survey can be a lengthy process and involves either face to face or telephone interviews of a majority of the residents, as well as training the interviewers, creating questionnaires and tabulating the information.

At the village board meeting Sept. 8, the board considered applying for ADA compliant sidewalks for the area in front of the Colburn Laundromat on Route 9, or parking and sidewalks from the Red Hook Firehouse to Route 9, or more crosswalks for pedestrians.

A public hearing to help determine which project to apply for is set for Oct. 6 at 7pm at Village Hall.

The town will be held to a $105,000 maximum grant amount and will hold a public hearing tonight on their proposal to apply for a grant for ADA improvements to the parking lot at Town Hall.

That draft proposal was unveiled at the town board’s Sept. 8 board meeting and includes adding six new handicapped parking spaces near the town hall main entrance, eliminating the northern Route 9 entrance and adding 12 staff parking spots on the east side of the building by moving the highway garage fence back. Visitor parking will also be expanded to 29 spaces and a green space with trees and tables between the staff parking lot and the side entrance will be added.

The application deadline for both municipalities is Oct. 17.

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