Block grant program called ‘satisfactory’

San Luis Obispo’s Community Development Department is doing a “satisfactory” job overseeing the use of block grants but needs to better communicate with those who get the money, according to a county grand jury report.

A citizen complaint prompted the grand jury to look at how the city manages the grants. The grievance had to do with a set of grant-funded projects at Judson Terrace Homes, a housing complex for low-income seniors on Augusta Street.

The city in July 2008 awarded $81,867 in block grant money to the housing complex to complete four projects: replacement of six laundry doors, upgrade to a more sophisticated smoke detection system, repairs to sidewalks and replacement of 18 wall heaters.

However, work stalled when the contractor hired to do the sidewalk repair used a subcontractor to pour the concrete. The subcontractor did not pay his employees prevailing wage — the hourly work rates to be paid to construction workers that are set by the California Department of Industrial Relations. That was a violation of the regulations overseeing block grant funds.

A San Luis Obispo city planner notified Judson Terrace representatives of the violation and froze additional funding until the matter was resolved.

To date, the 18 wall heaters have not been installed because the prevailing-wage violation is still in the process of being resolved.

San Luis Obispo housing programs manager Michael Codron said $11,936 must be paid to the subcontractor’s employees before the heaters can be installed.

The fix will leave $8,000 in grant funds to help pay for the heaters, Codron said, adding that all residents have functioning heaters.

“If they do need additional community development block grant funding,” Codron said, “they can request it, and we will do what we can to accommodate them.”

The city will institute additional safeguards to make sure that block grant recipients are aware of the requirement to pay prevailing wage. These include adding a direct reference of prevailing wage mandates to the city’s block grant agreement and on the county’s application form to alert future applicants and displaying specific information about grant recipients responsibilities on the city’s website.