A $700,000 HOME grant received by the Lebanon County Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) will allow the agency to renovate the first floor of its Cleona property into six affordable housing units for senior citizens.

The property is located along Route 422 at 137 W. Penn Ave.

“This will allow us to convert the redevelopment housing authority’s office building in Cleona into six, one-bedroom apartments for seniors,” said LCRA programs director Dan Lyons. “The county has received that grant, and we’re asking approval of the administration agreement for the redevelopment authority to administer the grant, and then a subrecipient agreement with the owner of that building, who will be benefiting from those funds.”

It was noted that while none are fully handicap accessible, they are all visitable. 

“If we made one of them fully handicap accessible, it would be at the expense of another unit,” added Lyons, who said space limitations were the deciding factor in not making any of the units fully handicap accessible.  

Lyons said the second floor will remain as LCRA offices and that there’s a plan to have a food pantry, most likely Caring Cupboard, housed in the building’s basement. 

The grant request approval for the new affordable housing units was one of a number of items presented by LCRA to the county commissioners on Thursday at the commission’s bi-weekly meeting.  

LCRA also requested and received on Thursday county funding for several other programs it administers.

In the first instance, the authority asked the county commissioners to provide funding as a stopgap measure to address a potential cash shortfall for its Community Development Program. 

LCRA executive director Karen Raugh also asked the commissioners to provide permission for her agency to apply for $400,000 from the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) next round of HOME program for first-time home buyers. 

“We would like for you to consider a match of $150,000 from the Act 137 Affordable Housing Trust fund towards this application,” said Raugh. “The funding for this (HOME) round will happen around November, and we don’t expect to receive the funds until next year. And we will run out of funding soon, so the $150,000 for help to fill that gap to help additional homebuyers.”

Raugh noted that the authority is currently working with six individuals as well as the rehabilitation of two homes, adding that the $150,000 would be designated for those projects. 

When asked by Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, Raugh said the authority’s current balance for the Community Development program is $1.9 million. It was noted that the county’s match from its trust fund also helps the county secure DCED funding since it is a sign of good faith on the part of the county. 

The authority’s second funding request was for the county’s Housing Accessibility and Senior Home Repair Program in the amount of $50,000. 

“In the past the Act 137 fund had provided funds for all of that but we’ve been able to get a PHARE Grant to help with that,” said Raugh. “And we are, again, going to be applying for that PHARE Grant, which is in November. But we are requesting $50,000 out of the Act 137 fund to help ensure the program remains operational until future PHARE funding arrives and to continue to be able to serve people in that program as well.”

Lyons said the commissioners had already supplied funding that assisted 25 individuals, but was requesting additional monies because that program is also almost out of funding.

“With the existing program, we are running out of money there, too,” said Lyons. “That is for seniors over the age of 60 and helps them make repairs to one of their major systems – whether it is a roof, heating, bathroom, and it also helps persons with permanent disabilities, regardless of age and whether they are homeowners or not, to make accessibility improvements to their housing.”

The next two items presented by LCRA were for funding increases due to higher construction costs for development projects in Jonestown Borough and South Lebanon Township. 

The commissioners approved applying about $30,000 in Community Development block grant funding to close the funding gap for the complete reconstruction of East Blackberry Street in Jonestown.

In South Lebanon Township, about $200,000 in block grant funding was applied to a stormwater management project in an alley between King and East Old Cumberland streets. Lyons said homes in the area were being flooded and the work will entail conveying the stormwater into the township’s sewer system. After the groundwork is completed, the gravel alley will be paved to provide better access to residents who park their cars there.      

The authority also presented an administration and cooperation agreement for approval for a number of grants received for the Community Development Block Grant contracts for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. 

As a public service announcement, it was noted that senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and those who are looking to become home buyers or existing homeowners who need repairs should contact LCRA to see if they qualify for one of their programs.

In other county business, the commissioners addressed a number of provider contract amendments for the county’s Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention program as well as a request for funding for building renovations at their office building in the 200 block of East Lehman Street. None of the additional funding requests would impact county coffers and all are covered by existing grants provided by the federal and state government. 

The commissioners approved 15 provider contract amendments in the amount of $105,128, including seven for early intervention and four each for mental health and intellectual disabilities for fiscal year 2021-22. 

“These are primarily due to higher units of service and higher provider expenses,” said MH/ID/EI administrator Holly Leahy. 

Concerning building amendments, the cost is $166,299 for eight different projects needed to renovate the building, which MH/ID/EI has inhabited for the past 30 years and during which time few major renovations have occurred. 

Leahy noted that while the building is in fairly good condition with this latest round of renovations, which do not include those that occurred last summer as profiled by LebTown, that a major future concern is the building’s roof, which will be expensive to replace. 

The commissioners also approved 11 provider contract amendments in the amount of $11,824 for fiscal year 2022-23, which are due to rate changes prompted by the state, three building amendments, and costs associated with the introduction of new services to agency clients. 

The commissioners also voted to: 

  • Grant three change orders towards the construction of the county’s new 911 Center totaling $54,514.72.
  • Accept an agreement for the sale of 1.29 acres of land for $75,000 for a premise on the west side of 1670 Heilmandale Road in Lebanon for the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail.
  • Allow the district attorney’s office to apply for a Police Traffic Service Enforcement Grant for a still-to-be-determined amount. The state will determine in the future the amount available to Lebanon County based on various highway traffic statistics. 
  • Provide South Annville Township with $2,850 in funding for line painting from the county’s Liquid Fuel Tax fund. 
  • Approve four fully disabled veteran real estate tax exemption requests.
  • Accept the minutes of their July 21 meeting, the treasurer’s report, and a number of personnel transactions. 
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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...