MICHIGAN CITY — The city will opt out of $2.3 million grant program to help remediate lead problems in homes, test children for lead, and train residents to help find and solve lead problems.
Last year, the city was awarded a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant under the Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Grant program, a grant which was lauded by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, U.S. Sen. Todd Young and former mayor Ron Meer.
However, the grant required a local match of $420,000, and the Mayor’s Office announced Friday that the cost is too high.
“After careful review of the current progress of this grant, the new city administration does not believe we can successfully comply with all the terms and conditions set forth in the grant, which includes meeting the quota threshold of 150 units needed to be completed by the federal grant guidelines,” the statement said.
“If the city does not successfully comply with all the terms and conditions of this grant before it expires, the city of Michigan City will be liable for repaying all the $2.3 million in federal monies, as well as completely losing the local match of $420,000.”
Mayor Parry said in the statement that “after careful consideration, the administration believes that it would be improper to place the city in a detrimental financial liability, and has started the process of discontinuing the grant.”
By ending the program and satisfying outstanding liabilities, the city would be able to return approximately $300,000 to the Riverboat Fund, the statement said.
It is common knowledge that there is a lead problem in the city, though determining the extent of the problem has been a problem for city and Michigan City Area Schools officials because only a small percentage of children have been tested.
Lead poisoning can have a number of severe health effects, and complications are most prominent in children.
The Committee on Lead was established in 2017 to help educate the community about the dangers of lead and initiate preventative measures to protect families.
The grant money was intended to be used to implement LeadSafe Michigan City, a program aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning, officials said when the grant was announced.
When the grant was announced, Michael Kuss, general manager of the Michigan City Sanitary District and chairman of the Committee on Lead, said the primary source of lead contamination is lead paint, especially in older homes and primarily in rental units.
The LeadSafe Michigan City program would be a lead-reduction program that included Healthy Homes interventions citywide, a statement from the city said. The goal was to focus resources on neighborhoods with the highest incidence of childhood lead poisoning and/or the greatest risk of lead exposure based on state and local data.
Specifically, Kuss said, the grant money would be used to:
Make 120 units lead safe
Protect 105 children under the age of 6 from lead hazards
Screen 1,500 children through lead testing
Train residents in either lead-safe cleaning practices or lead-safe work practices
Assist Section 3-eligible individuals and companies with obtaining professional certification to perform lead remediation
While the grant money will now be forfeited, the city will continue to work towards those objectives, the mayor said Friday.
“Based on concern for our children, the mayor and his administration will be conducting lead abatement through our Community Development Block Grant Program,” the statement said.
“In addition to this, the public should know that the State of Indiana has a lead abatement program called the Lead Community Action Program. This program is similar to the Federal Lead Grant the city was awarded, but actually provides more abatement funding to residents.”
The city will continue to do lead abatement through the Community Development Block Grant Program and refer citizens to the state program, the statement said.