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Grant chances goal for Franklin


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A 77-year-old Franklin woman is worried that she or one of the art students she teaches will trip and fall on the crumbling steps at her Main Street home, but she can’t afford to make the repairs.

Sharon Cataldi doesn’t know how much she would have to spend to fix the steps, but knows it will be more than she can afford on her limited income. She’s hoping to be one of more than a dozen Franklin residents who could get help fixing up their homes if the city wins a state grant.

Cataldi and more than 40 other residents have told the city they are interested in getting help fixing their homes. City officials already know that if Franklin gets the grant, they won’t be able to give money to all the people who have said they could use the help.

 

“I am kind of surprised that we’ve gotten so many. There are probably more people would have applied for it but haven’t because it sounds too good to be true,” Franklin code enforcement official Rhoni Oliver said.

The city is applying for a grant of up to $350,000 from a state agency, which will help residents with low- to moderate-level incomes pay for home repairs. Residents said in a survey that the city needs to do more to help improve neighborhoods, and that led the city to go after the grant, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

“There’s been a lot of interest from folks and all over the city. We’re not picking just one block and saying ‘We’re going to knock this out.’ It can be anyone. It can be anywhere in the city that’s in need of repairs,” McGuinness said.

Franklin may not get the money, since the city would have to compete with other communities around the state. And the grant won’t be enough for everyone who has asked for help, since the money would likely only cover 15 to 20 fix-up projects.

Merrill Hickey, who lives on East Kentucky Street, applied to get help replacing the roof and siding on his home, and possibly also his furnace.

He wants to get the roof fixed, but also wants to help improve the look of his block.

“It would be a big help to the city keeping everything looking nice in the neighborhood,” Hickey said.

After losing his eyesight, Hickey can’t do the repair work himself, and he can’t afford to pay $7,000 each for the roof and siding because he receives Social Security disability benefits and has a limited income.

The grant program, which is run by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, gives priority to households with low incomes, elderly or disabled residents, or families with children. Families qualify with incomes between $36,500 for a single person to $60,450 for a family of six.

Cataldi thinks she would qualify for the money based on her income, age and having an issue with safe access to her house due to the crumbling steps. She teaches art students in her home and is worried she or a student will tumble down the steps.

“I use a cane and it is a hazard. So if they can fix it, I would appreciate it because I intend to stay in this house for another 10 years,” she said.

The city asked for homeowners interested in the grant to contact the city last week and has already heard from about 50 residents, Oliver said. She didn’t expect to hear from so many homeowners so quickly. The response from homeowners could help the city’s chances of winning the grant, she said.

If the city gets the grant, Oliver first wants to target homes with environmental hazards, such as lead contamination. The city will likely then give priority to projects, such as access ramps for elderly or disabled homeowners, before considering other repairs, she said.

If the city is awarded the full $350,000 grant, the money won’t be enough to pay for projects for every resident who has asked for help, Oliver said. So she is also trying to work with a local home weatherization group and area churches to make more home repairs.

The state office that awards the grant recently changed the process. Before this year, the state would review funding requests from local governments as they came in and money was available, housing authority public information officer Emily Duncan said.

Now, all communities have to apply by a June deadline, and state officials will choose the top proposals to fund. Duncan did not know how many communities would be selected or how much money will be awarded this year.

Franklin would have to provide 10 percent matching funds if selected for the grant. Oliver plans to ask the Franklin Development Corp., a non-profit organization that was created and funded by the city, for more than the needed $35,000. If the organization gives more than that amount, that could also help the city get the grant, she said.

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