Unable to Meet Federal Deadline, City Delays $1 Million in Road Repairs
Friday, May 25, 2012 • 6:16am
PATERSON, NJ – More than $1 million in federal funding that was supposed to be used to fix some of Paterson’s worst streets instead will be spent on city park improvements, officials said.
The city’s community development department had earmarked $1,062,207 in United States Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money for road repairs in the 1st, 4th and 5th wards. Among the streets that had been on the list were N. 4th, Marion, Fair, Lake, Lilly Carbon, Pennington and Southard, officials said.
But the money came with an expiration date, officials said. It had to be spent by May 1 and Paterson was not able to meet that deadline, officials said. Rather than risk losing the money, the city decided to use it for park improvements in those same three wards, officials said.
“I would rather see us use the money for the parks than have it go back to the federal government,’’ said Councilman Kenneth Morris.
The money was used this spring to buy equipment and improve the landscaping in various parks, officials said.
“Our roads aren’t in great shape and our parks aren’t in great shape, we’re in a crunch all over,’’ said Council President Anthony Davis, when asked which was the city’s greatest need.
At one point earlier this year, city officials had wanted to spend the CDBG money on the roads and had awarded a Wharton company the contract to do the repairs using the CDBG money. But Public Works Director Christopher Coke said there wasn’t enough time to get the street repairs done and pay the vendors before May 1. Now the street work may have to wait another year, officials said.
“We had to make sure we didn’t lose the money,’’ he said. “We couldn’t pay the contractor before they did the work. That would have been irresponsible.’’
It was not clear how Paterson ended up in the beat-the-clock race to spend the CDBG money. Normally, the city has two years to use the federal funds. In recent years, the city has lost several million dollars because it failed to spend various grants from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development within the two year period. In this case, officials said the CDBG money originally had been earmarked for something else and was reallocated for the roads.
Community Development Director Lanisha Makle, who oversees the CDBG funding, did not respond to a request for an explanation of the situation. Neither did City Business Administrator Charles Thomas, who is Makle’s boss.
“I would have liked to see these roads get done,’’ Coke said. “I share everybody’s frustration. I drive in the city. I would love the roads to be smooth. But we’re up against some challenges that are hard to overcome.’’
For more than a year, city council members have complained about the condition of Paterson’s streets. That continued at the May 22 council meeting
“The potholes are craters,” said Councilman Aslon Goow. “I’ve been asking for six months for various locations to be fixed. They’re not responding. We’re talking a year later.’’
Councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes said public works has just one truck assigned to fixing potholes and its crew has been reduced from three to two members. “I don’t know when they’re going to catch up,’’ said Ames-Garnes.
Not all the news on the road repair front is bad. The state has awarded Paterson $489,000 that will be used to repave Rosa Parks Boulevard from Lafayette to 12th avenues, E. 19th Street from 17th Avenue to Market Street, Mill Street from Market through Oliver streets, Knickerbocker Avenue from Wabash through Trenton avenues, and Holsman Street from Presidential Boulevard to Haledon Avenue.
Also, Coke said, Passaic County is earlarking money to repair county roads within Paterson, including Market Street, Belmont Avenue, McBride Avenue, Madison Avenue, E. 18th Street, 6th Avenue, 10th Avenue, Grand Street and Crooks Avenue.