City hosts final forum on 5-year plan

By 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.”