A monumental mistake by an organization designed to help small towns navigate state and federal red tape might cost Star Valley a $200,000 award from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
Town Manager Tim Grier said the town contracted with the Central Arizona Association of Governments (CAAG) four years ago to do a survey required for CDBG funds. Apparently, relying on “cut and paste” to complete the survey, CAAG used the income levels for Pinal County instead of Gila County, Grier explained. The federal money is intended to benefit low and moderate income residents.
An audit uncovered the mistake.
Pinal County incomes are higher than those in Gila County, he said. To keep the funds, the town must now survey selected residents.
The town wants to use the grant to make improvements in the Milky Way Well, so the residents directly served by that well must complete the survey.
The town mailed out the survey Tuesday, Dec. 4 and needs replies by Friday, Dec. 21. The task is complicated by the fact that many residents get their mail at the post office, not at their homes. Anyone who did not get a survey may come into town hall to fill one out or expect a visit at their front door from a member of the Star Valley Town Council sometime between Dec. 23 and Jan. 31.
At least 75 percent of the 225 households on the Milky Way Well must participate in the survey and at least 51 percent of those must have income in the low to moderate range.
“Low” income starts at $27,350 per year for a one-person household and rises with the number of people in the household, said Greer.
Without demonstrating that the project will benefit people in that category, the town will lose the $200,000 CDBG award.
Grier said the survey is quite brief and the town will only use the responses for the single purpose of securing the grant.
The invalid survey by CAAG is just the latest challenge the little town of Star Valley has encountered in efforts to make community improvements.
Initially the council earmarked the $200,000 from the CDBG program to improve Pinion Road. The town planned to use money from CDBG State Special Projects for the well improvements.
However, the government denied the town’s request for SSP funds for the well site, so the council opted to instead designate general CDBG funds. The state authorities approved the change, but now the wrong information about residents’ income has put the award in jeopardy.