Center Township road sign

Center Township officials envision placing hand-washing stations and sanitization supplies for recreation enthusiasts with a special allocation of money to tide the township through the coronavirus pandemic.

The township board of supervisors huddled with LuAnn Zak of Indiana County Office of Planning and Development in an online public hearing Thursday to decide how to spend a Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) award of $62,762.

After allocating $6,362 for administrative costs, the township would put $56,400 toward coronavirus relief.

The hearing on the Zoom app had a double purpose as the officials also considered the best use of the township’s annual allotment of traditional CDBG funds for community improvement projects. The money is channeled to the township from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and can only be spent to benefit people and families within certain income limits.

Unlike the yearly grant that has to be spent on water or sewer systems, roads or housing, the CDBG-CV money can only be earmarked for township expenses in preparation, response and recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The supervisors said they want to start a home-delivered lunch program for residents in the Aultman area, and to donate money to Indiana County Community Action Program (ICCAP) for food banks that serve Center Township.

The hand-washing stations would be installed along the Hoodlebug Trail near the boosters’ baseball field and at community parks in the Myr-Walt and Lucernemines areas, the supervisors suggested.

Zak said the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has ruled that the project is an eligible expense.

DCED has given “a tentative yes” on the Aultman lunch program, Zak said.

“We just have to fit it into a category and make sure that we can document that the food that’s being delivered was for low-income children,” Zak said.

Center Township would join Burrell Township, another CDBG-CV grant recipient, in deciding to support the ICCAP food program.

Zak said the township has time to explore other options or refine its plans. The deadline to submit a project plan is Aug. 31.

The supervisors affirmed their intent to spend the township’s traditional CDBG for 2020 on reconstruction of Entry Way in Aultman, and suggested spending the 2021 and 2022 block grants on a blighted structure remediation program — if the township remains eligible for an automatic grant.

With a population of more than 4,000 in the 2010 U.S. Census and with certified pockets of low- and moderate-income households, Center is one of three municipalities in Indiana County that are entitled to local CDBG awards each year.

The supervisors and county officials have been encouraging township residents to complete their 2020 Census forms to assure that the township has an accurate head count for determining eligibility for block grants for the next 10 years.

The township has been awarded $100,196 for this year. A second public hearing will be scheduled in the coming weeks for township residents to weigh in on the three-year plan. The deadline to submit project plans for DCED approval is Oct. 28.