By STEVE FREKER
MALDEN — City Councilors have approved spending plans for federal grant money allocated to the city, but are worried about Trump administration cuts decimating the important grant source.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) helps fund service programs, most of which involve housing and fighting poverty in low to moderate income communities.
Councilors want some of this year’s block grant money spent on addressing reports of raised lead levels in some of the city’s schools.
Ward Six Councilor Neil Kinnon’s proposal to put a 50 percent cap on the annual increase on individual CDBG funding grants led to a 7-2 council vote to institute the cap and reallocate approximately $40,000 of CDBG funds to replace water bubblers at the Forestdale K-8 School and Malden High School. Both were listed as having elevated lead levels in the drinking water according to a recently-released state survey.
“If (the pipes were) pre-World War II, they’re lead and they’re bringing lead into the drinking water of our schools. We have to address this problem now,” Kinnon said.
Kinnon also stressed lead in drinking water affects youngsters faster and worse than it would affect an adult. He said recent lead level tests were taken at respective schools’ water fountains. “Most of our schools were built in the past 20 years or 1999 or 2000, so there are only two reasons why there is lead in the water: Either the pipes at the water fountains are lead — which they’re not — or the lines coming in from the street are lead pipes. Here is a way we can start generating funds to address this. We have no choice. These are our schoolchildren,” he said.
This was the second move made to create funding for the lead pipe issue. Last week in the finance committee discussion, Ward Three Councilor John Matheson successfully moved to reallocate $200,000 in block grant money to the Malden Redevelopment Authority’s housing rehabilitation loan program, which provides residents in need with a way to replace lead water lines on their own property.
Matheson also proposed reallocating $180,000 earmarked for improvements at Anderson Park Little League field in Ward Seven and two covered, handicapped accessible dugouts at Callahan Park softball field on Pearl Street (Ward Two).
“We have spent over $20 million on parks either replacing or improving them in our city since 2010. That’s a lot of funding and we have great parks,” Matheson said. “But we also have other pressing needs in our city.”
The Ward Three Councilor proposed putting the $180,000 to the housing rehabilitation program and suggested a grant from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) could be applied for to cover the park improvements.
At present there is just a preventive fence and benches at the park, which is the home of Malden High girls softball and is used by Malden Youth Softball and other citywide groups. The shift in block grant money from parks to housing raised protests.
“This park (Callahan) is one of the most heavily-used parks in the city, it’s not just a Ward Two park. We have to continue to make progress in all areas of the budget and not go after funds allocated in other wards,” said Ward Two Councilor Paul Condon.
Matheson’s move to reallocate the $180,000 for park improvements failed by a 7-2 vote with himself and Councilor at large David D’Arcangelo voting in favor.
Ward Seven Councilor Neal Anderson, who was sitting as temporary Council President in place of Council President Peg Crowe, echoed Condon’s remarks: “These funds were allocated for specific projects in these wards. Other ward councilors should not be looking to recoup these funds for other purposes.”
Council President Crowe had recused herself for all of the nearly 90-minute Council meeting discussion of the CDBG grant since she is employed by one of the groups receiving funding through the program.