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TOWN OF NIAGARA – The Town Board voted Thursday to pursue a $600,000 block grant to help pay for long-awaited road and drainage work in the Belden Center area.

But residents were assured that even if the grant application is rejected for the third time around, the project would still move forward. In either case, the work probably would not begin until next year.

At a special public hearing, a handful of Belden Center residents continued their efforts to get the board to commit to the project, which would replace roads that are covered in potholes and cracks, and put in new sewer and water lines. The same group has appeared at several sessions over the past few years, including budget meetings and discussions about funding. In January, the residents pushed the board to commit any new sales tax money from the expansion at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara to the work in their neighborhood. The board agreed to secure $100,000 of the community host money from the mall.

Deputy Supervisor Sylvia Virtuoso told the group that the community development block grant from the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal was not guaranteed but that the project would continue even without it. Results from the application are expected in September. The town has been turned down twice for the same grant, it was noted.

She said the residents needed to understand that the board has the fiscal responsibility to “go after free money” first before expending tax dollars.

The entire project of road, sewer and water line replacement had been estimated to cost about $2.5 million back in January. With the dedication of the mall funds, the town would be able to borrow the project money through bonding, according to discussions at previous meetings. A similar financing system was set up for work in the Veteran Heights area a few years ago, officials said.

According to the discussion, the town has been paying the firm $900 a month for writing grant applications for the past two years. The cost is spread among several department budgets.

Councilman Marc Carpenter said he wondered how many grants Rotella has been able to secure since it was hired. Sklarski commented that the “chief of police seems to get more grants” than the firm.