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The reconstruction of Broadway in Monticello continues. The funding of future projects on Broadway is in question if the village does not submit needed paperwork to close out three state grants.
Dispute endangers Monticello grants
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Thanks to a stalemate in village government, the Village of Monticello may be in danger of losing some state funding.
On October 14, Gail Hammond, the director of the NYS Office of Community Renewal, wrote a letter to Mayor Gordon Jenkins noting that the village missed a September 29 deadline to submit a Federal Assistance Expenditure Form pertaining to three Community Development Block Grants Monticello received through her office.
The document is one of several that Hammond said the village owes the state in order to complete the closeout of these grants, the monies of which have either already been used or returned.
“There is no purpose in leaving them open,” she explained to the Democrat this week.
But without those documents, the state cannot complete the process, including several audits and a mandated report to the federal Division of Housing and Urban Development, where some of these funds originated.
And if the village cannot complete what Hammond feels is a simple process, she warned that the NYS Office of Community Renewal might not disburse future grants to Monticello.
“That is a strong possibility,” she affirmed.
Her October 14 letter goes even further.
“The village’s funds will be suspended for all open projects until such time as the form is received and approved by our office,” she wrote.
The grants in question totalled about $1.2 million, were released to Monticello between 2002 and 2005, and were targeted at downtown revitalization projects and replacement of water infrastructure.
Hammond’s staff routinely monitored the use of the grants (including on-site visits), and she said whatever was used was spent appropriately. About $133,000 that was not used was returned to the state.
But the village still owes the state several documents that Hammond said are required to officially end the specific grant programs.
“We must close these projects out,” she insisted.
Despite meetings between her staff and village officials in the past two months, Jenkins still hasn’t signed the Federal Assistance Expenditure Form.
According to Jenkins, it’s because former Village Manager Zach Kelson and current Village Manager Ray Nargizian “blackballed” him on info regarding grants.
“I have no access to anything,” Jenkins said. “It’s a shame!”
The mayor alleged that Kelson kept him in the dark about grants and that Nargizian hasn’t shown him anything but a cover letter regarding the info Hammond requires.
“He only gave me one sheet of the whole grant,” Jenkins claimed of Nargizian. “... So I don’t even know what I’m signing for.”
Kelson rejected Jenkins’ claims.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “It’s easy to blame someone else for your own shortcomings.”
Kelson pointed out that Jenkins himself served as manager between Kelson’s tenure and Nargizian’s, but even while Kelson was manager, the mayor “had full access” to all documents.
“I only asked that when he had an inquiry, he do it through me,” said Kelson.
Nargizian also countered that Jenkins can have and has had access to any of the grant documents.
“My recommendation was for him to sign the letter,” Nargizian said of the form Hammond needs.
The issue may have more to do with a power struggle between Jenkins and Nargizian, as the mayor has expressed distaste for Nargizian’s handling of grants, especially in the manager’s hiring of a secretary to assist him with the grants process.
Nargizian has repeatedly pointed to village rules allowing him to fulfill and delegate that function.
So Jenkins wondered why Nargizian himself couldn’t sign the form(s) needed by the state.
Hammond said Nargizian can but only if the village board sends her office a resolution giving Nargizian that power.
Until that time, only the chief elected officer of the village aka Jenkins can put signature to paper.
Kelson said that the board could also file a “writ of mandamus” in state Supreme Court that would ask a judge to demand the mayor sign the documents in question.
Hammond said she’s never dealt with a municipality unable to complete a few simple forms and signatures.
“This is an unusual issue,” she acknowledged.
Regardless, a lack of action will have consequences when it comes time for the Office of Community Renewal to consider future grant applications from Monticello.
“Past performance,” she remarked, “does play a role.”