CITY COUNCIL MEETING
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2001
Mayor Dan Bishop called the Special February 1, 2001 City Council Meeting to order in the City Council Chambers at 6:00 p.m.
City Manager Kirk Davis
Item 3. on the Agenda. Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor Bishop led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag in which all joined.
Item 4. on the Agenda RESOLUTION 01-8, authorizing the City Manager to allocate funds in the amount of $10,000 for a Gas Utility Assistance Program for qualified Gladstone residents to be administered by Northland Neighborhoods, Inc.; and funds in the amount of $5,000 for a Weatherization Program through Gladstone Neighbors Helping Neighbors; and authorizing execution of Agreements with the respective agencies for such purposes.
Mayor Dan Bishop asked City Manager Kirk Davis to introduce the resolution and present background information.
City Manager Kirk Davis stated that this resolution is the only agenda item before the City Council this evening and, if passed, would appropriate $10,000 to assist needy Gladstone families with their gas heating bills, and appropriate $5,000 to assist families with weatherization improvements to their homes. This is a new program for us and the utility assistance appropriation ($10,000) would be distributed through Northland Neighborhoods, Inc., and the weatherization appropriation ($5,000) would be utilized by Neighbors Helping Neighbors to benefit qualified Gladstone families. The resolution before the Council would authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement with these agencies to distribute monies for those purposes.
It is also recommended that a five-member citizen panel be appointed to oversee the appropriation to Northland Neighborhoods, including development of distribution and benefit guidelines. Northland Neighborhoods currently assists the public with several other grants for neighborhood improvements and utilizes distribution standards and guidelines to administer those grants. They would use consistent and similar guidelines for the administration of this particular grant. Carolyn Vellar, Director for Northland Neighborhoods is in the audience and may be able to answer questions relative to the guidelines. The five member panel would help Northland Neighborhoods by answering questions, providing guidance to help review the applications and disbursal of monies and certainly to review reports once the funds have been expended to ensure they are expended the way Council deems necessary. This is intended to be a one-time only grant due to the large and unexpected natural gas price increases that have occurred this winter.
The second part is the weatherization program which the City would enter into an agreement with Neighbors Helping Neighbors to assist in funding a program to augment their existing home improvement program. It only makes sense that if we are going to assist with high gas bills for needy families at this time, then providing funding to assist in reducing future energy usage by making weatherization improvements to Gladstone homes is also appropriate. Neighbors Helping Neighbors also has guidelines for the work that they do and we should use consistent guidelines for the disbursement of this money.
Guideline details have not been worked out to date, but would be included as a reference or exhibit to the agreement that he is suggesting that the Council authorize the city manager to enter into tonight.
Application flyers are being put together at this point in time and subject to Council approval of the appropriations, can be made available at several locations such as City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, library, Northland Neighborhoods and other places where folks can pick up the applications and submit to Northland Neighborhoods or to Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
City Manager Davis commented that it is a pretty straight-forward proposal and he would be open for any comments from Council.
Councilman Anita Newsom asked what kind of time frame we are talking about. Due to standard policies, gas service will not be shut off while the temperatures are below 32 degrees or whatever the criteria is, but bills are going to continue to pile up for people that do have needs.
Mr. Davis stated that they had discussed an April 15th deadline, figuring that February bills get to people in March.
Councilman Newsom asked about the implementation of the program and getting it off the ground and running. City Manager Davis confirmed with Northland Neighborhoods representative Carolyn Vellar that on February 7th they would begin taking applications.
Mayor Bishop then asked if taking applications could be done prior to that date.
City Manager Davis stated yes, if people have an interest, there are forms out in the lobby where they can sign up and we will send applications to those folks who are here tonight.
February 7th is the beginning date which just gives us enough time to put the agreement and applications together and select locations where they may be picked up by residents. April 15th would be the deadline for the gas assistance program, but the weatherization program does not have the same timeline. It is something that Neighbors Helping Neighbors can utilize in the spring and fall as people gear up for next winter.
Councilman Newsom asked if we could put information on cable for the meeting that Representative Willoughby will have this coming Saturday morning at Antioch Middle School.
Ms. Newsom continued and asked about criteria for the applicants; the recipients of this program; just what kind of criteria are we looking at.
Mr. Davis stated that he would defer to Carolyn Vellar or Art Hammen, Director of Neighbors Helping Neighbors because they are familiar with their own criteria.
Carolyn Vellar stated that they have not met with the committee to discuss the income guidelines yet, but as explained, they will be using the same guidelines used for the federal home bank grant that is provided in Gladstone. Residents must provide proof of income, meet income guidelines, provide proof of residency, and bring their bill with them. They must reside in the property that they are asking for assistance with. The bill must be in their name, and they must complete the application. This is a one-time only grant to them; they cannot come back a month later and get more funding.
Plans are to meet with the committee before Saturday, so they can fine tune the information and have it available for Representative Willoughby’s workshop at Antioch Middle School. It is a perfect time for this and a notice was in the Dispatch regarding this meeting so most people should be aware of it. A draft copy of the guidelines and application is available and information about the federal home loan grant if residents need a roof or furnace. Information will also be included on Neighbors Helping Neighbors if they need minor repairs that NHN can help them with. An information packet will be available Saturday.
Ms. Vellar distributed a draft to Council to look over. She stated that this was done quickly today after calling back and forth to fine tune some things. There will probably be more adjustments before Saturday.
Councilman Bill Cross stated that the program looks great and what has been done so far is wonderful.
Mayor Bishop stated that he was amazed at what has been accomplished in two days. He then asked about the form which states that residents can apply one time for this fund for 50% of the total amount due up to $300 on gas bills dated December 2000, January and February 2001. He asked where it says “and”, maybe this should be “or”.
Ms. Vellar stated that if the bill is not paid in December, it is added in January and becomes an accumulated bill. They only do it once, and if they are smart they will bring in their largest bill.
Councilman Newsom reiterated that it was a maximum $300 benefit to anyone who qualifies.
Councilman Cross asked if it has been determined where the forms can be picked up so that the press or TV could give this information. The City Manager mentioned four possibilities, but others could be considered. Carolyn Vellar suggested that maybe Public Safety could have applications on hand.
Mayor Bishop stated that it is impossible to know how many could ask for assistance for both gas bills and weatherization. He then asked if some of the $10,000 allocated is not used, what is the plan for that money.
Mr. Davis stated that if funds were not appropriated by May 1st, they would be returned to the City for other municipal purposes and this would be specified in the contract.
Ms. Newsom asked Mr. Art Hammen about the minor home grant repair. How will we find out about the people who need just minor weatherization.
Mr. Art Hammen, Director of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, thanked the Council and City Manager for being able to answer questions. He stated that it was brought to his attention a week ago that weatherization might be beneficial to the citizens of Gladstone who are struggling with gas bills. Neighbors Helping Neighbors has been working on that and trying to refine that idea. The grant this evening becomes the catalyst for that program. They have in place a basic review form that is used with folks who contact them in need of help. This non-profit organization is in existence to help Gladstone homeowners who are physically or financially unable to maintain their properties. The weatherization idea to assist them with the gas bill goes along with the saying, “ give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life-time.”
The hope is that working with the City and Northland Neighborhoods, we can help people reduce their gas bills in the future. There are volunteers in the wings who are ready to help when the materials are available through the grant, to help weatherize these homes.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors has taken it one step further, in that they have been in touch with Gladstone Public Safety and with their cooperation, in addition to weatherization, we are going to be looking at the need for smoke detectors. Public Safety Department has agreed to work with Neighbors Helping Neighbors to provide smoke detectors, which are donated to them. Public Safety has even offered the manpower to install them when the volunteers cannot. The combination of this would be very beneficial to Gladstone residents.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors should be ready in about one week to begin accepting applications, reviewing them, lining up volunteers and going out to do the weatherization.
Mayor Bishop asked Mr. Davis if there was anything else to discuss. Mr. Davis stated that the five-member oversight panel members needs to be recommended by the Council.
Councilman Newsom commented that they should each put a name to the list and move on. Mayor Bishop agreed, stating that then the committee could meet before Saturday and have information ready for Representative Willoughby’s forum.
Mayor Bishop suggested making the motion, before proceeding any further with name suggestions.
Councilman Shirley Smith moved to adopt Resolution R-01-8; Councilman Anita Newsom seconded.
Councilman Newsom stated that they had discussed this quite a bit. It is a good program, and as challenge, she and Mr. Hammen had discussed last week the weatherization plan and he twisted her arm for getting volunteers. The gentleman to her right has volunteered and she sees several here who will probably help at some time too.
Mayor Bishop stated that the cost of gas is not usually an issue that comes before the Council, but this winter has brought together an extraordinary set of circumstances that has caused hardship to some Gladstone families. We have had a bitterly cold winter, combined with significant increase in the cost of natural gas. Together, these factors have made for extremely high gas bills. It came to his attention last week that other communities in the metro area are taking measures to help their citizens pay the high cost of heating in their homes. In talking with the City Manager about this issue, he stated that from a budgetary standpoint, the City could afford to provide a grant to help people.
The challenge was who would administer the appropriations of this money to Gladstone citizens who need it. We are so grateful to have two organizations like Northland Neighborhoods and Neighbors Helping neighbors who are willing to step up and say they will do it. This has all happened since Monday, four days ago. We can see a great deal of thought, hard work, and effort has gone into this for tonight. We knew the importance of working quickly, because the January gas bills are arriving in mailboxes now.
We have the opportunity to provide assistance to Gladstone residents in paying their gas bills and winterizing their homes. This is a unique and innovative arrangement with Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Northland Neighborhoods and he will be pleased to vote in favor of it.
The vote: All “aye” - Smith, Nodler, Newsom, Cross, Bishop. (5-0).
Item 5. on the Agenda. Other Business.
Councilman Newsom wanted to remind everyone to go vote.
Mayor Bishop also encouraged everyone to go vote for the fire protection sales tax.
Mr. Bishop also mentioned that if residents have come here tonight to receive assistance, there are sign-up sheets in the lobby for gas bill assistance or for help in weatherizing your home. This is the first step in getting help on these issues.
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There were no communications from the News Media or further business to come before the Special February 1, 2001 Gladstone City Council Meeting, and Mayor Dan Bishop adjourned the Regular Meeting.
Marilyn F. Ahnefeld, City Clerk