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The Lake Charles City Council Chambers at City Hall. (American Press Archives)

The Lake Charles City Council Chambers at City Hall. (American Press Archives)

City hosts final forum on 5-year plan

Last Modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 12:16 PM

By Justin Phillips / American Press

To help work out the details in the city’s next Five-Year Consolidated Plan, Lake Charles community development officials hosted their final community forum Thursday in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

James Gilleylen from J-QUAD Planning Group led the forum. He took the residents in attendance through the various steps of the consolidated plan process, focusing on the community outreach portion. He talked about how in this step, the city would be able to learn the needs of residents.

“There are various elements of the consolidated plan,” Gilleylen said. “When it comes to citizen participation, this is why we have these meetings where the public can come out and give input.”

During the last forum, in October, the city’s community development department was not only dealing with a decrease in financing, but also a federal government shutdown. Even though the shutdown is over, financial stability is still a concern.

From steps in the process like the housing market analysis and housing and homeless needs, to the monitoring plan where the city makes sure funds go into the proper avenues, each one is based on the available funding.

“The funds that we receive have continued to go down instead of up,” Gilleylen said. “Even though the amounts we may receive seem like a lot, they don’t go very far at all.”

As the funding decreases, so does the amount of housing rehabilitation the department can do in the community. Department head Esther Vincent said the city is just going to tighten its belt and continue to do what it can. “We can’t do as many as we did in the past, but we’re going to make sure we do what we can,” she said.

Gilleylen passed out a survey to the residents in attendance, asking them for information on services and improvements that could be made to their neighborhoods. To help allocate the limited funding the city has to work with, the survey asked residents to rank community needs as high or low priority.

The final steps in the process include a 30-day public comment period, adjustments, a final public hearing and City Council approval, and sending the plan to HUD.

After the meeting, Gilleylen talked about how the public forums have multiple purposes. “Our goal is to get as much public input as we can get,” Gilleylen said. “The interesting thing is that we rely on the data from analysis and what these meetings can do is either confirm that the data we have is right, or the community can give us some new information and provide us with a better, more accurate direction.”

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