Rocklin weighs options for state grant funds

Meals on Wheels, homeless program, 211 helpline all eligible
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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City of Rocklin Community Development Block Grants

2012: $180,926

2011: $185,227

2010: $221,470

2009: $203,163

2008: $198,504

Source: City of Rocklin


2012 Rocklin Grant Allocation

Meals on Wheels: $20,138

Gathering Inn/Homeless Program: $7,000

Senior Handyman Program: $10,000

Business Facade Improvement: $50,000

ADA curb & building upgrades: $57,603

City administration costs: $36,185

Total: $180,926


City of Rocklin Community Development Block Grants

2012: $180,926

2011: $185,227

2010: $221,470

2009: $203,163

2008: $198,504


Every time Rocklin resident John Ratcliff looks in the mirror, he sees the benefit of the senior nutrition meals provided by Auburn-based Seniors First.

“I was a diabetic when I came here,” he said. “I weighed 300 pounds. Now I weigh 238. That was by design. I was on a very strict diet.”

The program gets partial funding from a federal Community Development Block Grant administered by the city of Rocklin.

Ratcliff is a resident of Shannon Bay apartments off Springview Drive, where Seniors First operates Rocklin’s Meals on Wheels program and has a cafe for seniors who need a hot meal. The program has weathered funding changes during the recession, scaled back work hours and even saw a three-week shut down.

The city of Rocklin is preparing to dole out an estimated $180,000 in state CDBG funds. Last year, Seniors First got $20,000 from Rocklin, which did not cover all of the need in the city, according to program officials. During the recession, they scraped by with half that.

“Every penny that we don’t get counts,” said Rocklin site manager Kat Lombardi-Weeks. “The nutrition program is going to be the first thing cut. The nutrition program draws out the majority of the money we get in. It’s the most expensive part of the organization.”

For Ratcliff, an 83-year-old Korean War veteran, the program is more than just a meal.

“The reason I come here is because this is a community of friends,” he said. “We’ve come to know each other’s family and discuss the good ‘ole days.”

According to the U.S. De-partment of Housing and Ur-ban Development, the grants program “works to ensure decent affordable housing, to provide services to the most vulnerable in our communities and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses.”

Last year, the city spent about 11 percent of its grant money on Meals on Wheels and 20 Last year, the city spent about 11 percent of its grant money on Meals on Wheels and 20 percent on its own administration costs. Rocklin Housing Coordinator and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Leslie Woodman told the council the city plans to continue to support Seniors First and the Gathering Inn homeless shelter in Roseville, but has other interests as well for this year’s funding.

“(City) staff is looking at potentially using some CDBG funds to continue the services with the Gathering Inn as well as Seniors First,” Woodman said. “Eligible activities for CDBG funds include home ownership assistance, loans and grants for economic development purposes, housing rehabilitation, as well as removal of architectural barriers.”

Last year the city started a $50,000 pilot program to provide downtown businesses with grants to upgrade their facades through the Central Rocklin Area Façade, Revitalization & Accessibility Grant Program. The city hopes to continue the program with more money to encourage revitalization of the downtown by means of private investment through renovations and quality improvements in the visual appearance of buildings. They’ve also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last five years making city buildings like City Hall and Finn Hall more accessible to the disabled.

Forced by the state and Environmental Protection Agency to tighten water quality, city leaders are considering a storm drain improvement project for an older part of town near Ruhkala Road and Lost Avenue behind the Kmart shopping center.

Councilmembers expressed an interest in using the CDBG funds to support a new county program that creates a “211” hotline for community service help for those in need.

“Say a person is evicted from her apartment this afternoon and she needs to find a place for her and her two children. She could call 211 and get an answer,” 211 advocate Craig George told the council at the April 9 meeting.

“It would act like a helpline,” he explained. “It’s operated by a real person who has access to a comprehensive database.”

While 211 could be funded and available to other jurisdictions, organizers are expecting a need for funding, as 6,000 calls will likely be received by the hotline the first year, George said.

Rocklin City Councilmember George Magnuson said there isn’t enough money to go around to all the good causes.

“There is not much money there,” he said. “It’s $3 per citizen. It’s not a lot. We’re becoming very reliant on it for a lot of our social programs that we deal with. I think it’s something we really have to keep track of.”

For Lombardi-Weeks, who calls herself a senior advocate, the senior nutrition program needs more money, not less.

“Seniors are very important, and I think that’s forgotten,” she said. “Either they can’t afford to buy food for themselves or cook for themselves. That’s what we’re here for. They are already left without so many things – I want them to at least have a simple meal.”

Lombardi-Weeks and other concerned volunteers hope to lobby the council for more funds. In the next few weeks, a plan will be drafted by the city to map out how CDBG funds wil be spent. Concerned citizens will be able to make comments and have a 30-day public review period before any changes are made.