One could have heard a pin drop during Tuesday's public hearing concerning Wheeling's federal Community Development Block Grant program - had there been anyone in the room to drop a pin, that is.
Not a single resident attended the hearing, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the annual CDBG distribution process. Nancy Prager and Gary Lange from the city's Economic and Community Development Department waited about 10 minutes past the appointed 5:30 p.m. start time, but no one showed.
Prager attributed the lack of interest Tuesday to an absence of controversial issues this year. Last year, for example, the decision to cut funding for the city Human Rights Commission by nearly 80 percent drew a lot of attention.
"Usually, those are the ones where people show up," Prager said.
In years past, Wheeling held multiple CDBG public hearings in various neighborhoods, but Prager said attendance at those meetings was poor and officials discontinued the practice a couple of years ago.
Prager said Wheeling has yet to learn its 2014-15 entitlement amount from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but officials are hopeful it will remain at or near this year's level of about $1.12 million. The city has seen a steady decline in recent years, losing about $500,000 over the last three years.
Friday was the deadline for outside public service agencies to submit applications for funding. Organizations seeking funds this year include Wheeling Health Right, the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, Family Service-Upper Ohio Valley, the Seeing Hand Association, Catholic Charities and the Information Helpline/Upper Ohio Valley. City agencies applying include the police department, Human Rights Commission and the Nelson Jordan Center.
Wheeling is spending its CDBG money for the current fiscal year as follows: $400,000 for the playground portion of the J.B. Chambers Recreation Park project in East Wheeling; $224,000 for program administration; $188,000 to repay a Section 108 loan; $100,000 for building demolition; $92,800 for street paving and sidewalk repair; $50,000 for directed police patrols in East Wheeling and on Wheeling Island; $33,000 for the city-owned Nelson Jordan Center recreation facility; $28,000 for Wheeling Health Right; $14,000 for the city Human Rights Commission; $12,000 for exam room renovation at the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department; $5,000 each for the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and the Greater Wheeling Homeless Coalition; and $4,250 for the Seeing Hand Association.