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Published: 5/10/2006

Grant cut for health group sparks protests

With the allocation of millions of dollars ironed out during a Toledo City Council meeting yesterday, the greatest amount of debate centered on a $52,000 budget cut for a struggling central-city health provider.

The Neighborhood Health Association, which runs several community health centers in low-income areas, had its city grant funding cut by that amount, or 20 percent, to $208,000.

The association's board, in turn, sent letters to council members protesting that other agencies had been cut, on average, by only 8 percent.

Several council members objected to administration officials and to Councilman Michael Ashford, who worked out the allocations with the city.

"This is just not a vote I can cast in good conscience," said Councilman Ellen Grachek.

Tom Kroma, the city's director of neighborhoods, said the budget tightening was tough for all, because the federal program from which the money came - the Community Development Block Grant program - had been drastically reduced and is to be cut by an additional 28 percent next year.

He said health services were a lower priority than other programs funded with Block Grant money.

"The budget is that tight," agreed Mr. Ashford. "This was one of the most trying, challenging years we've ever had."

In the end, the block-grant budget was approved by an 8-3 vote, as city officials noted the deadline for applying for the federal funds is just days away.

In other council business, an anticipated vote on paying an east side nonprofit to manage the East Toledo Marina District project was put off for two weeks, as several councilmen protested that they had received the written management agreement from the Finkbeiner administration too late.

River East Economic Revitalization Corp., headed by Don Monroe, was to receive $8,000 a month to cover the expenses of serving as the local project manager. But Councilman Frank Szollosi was first to object that council received the 11-page legal document a mere 30 minutes before the vote.

The matter was tabled.

Council also:

●Appointed mayoral chief of staff Robert Reinbolt to the Lucas County Improvement Corp., a joint city-county economic development agency.

●Authorized $1.1 million from the city's capital improvement budget to pay for the construction of GM Parkway from Jackman Road to Laskey Road.

●Authorized $22 million for the Eastside Water Main project, reaching from Ravine Park under the Maumee River to the Anthony Wayne Trail.

●Allocated $500,000 from the city's capital improvement fund for right-of-way construction surrounding the Westgate Village Shopping Center.



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