Funds may be reallocated from blight removal to fixing roads - WNEM TV 5

Funds may be reallocated from blight removal to fixing roads

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FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

A new proposal in the U.S. Senate calls for reallocating money earmarked for blight removal to fixing roads. 

It's not a surprise that Michigan drivers are fed up with the condition of their roads. But a lot of expensive work is left to be done in blight removal across mid-Michigan.

THE ROADS

"They suck. They really, really suck." 

Felisha Madison's sentiment is shared among many drivers. But the U.S. Senate plan to reallocate funds isn't sitting well with everyone.

"It will never happen. It will never happen,” said Janet Elisech. “How much taxes have we spent on this crazy stuff, and everything is still going to Hell you know?"

About $175 million was set aside for Michigan, part of which has already been spent. It's not clear yet how much could be rescinded.

“The Hardest Hit Fund” was initially intended to keep residents in their homes and avoid foreclosure. It eventually funded blight removal projects, with U-S treasury officials arguing that tearing down abandoned homes increased property values.

Some support the proposal, though.

"I don't care, they can keep the abandoned houses. I'd rather have good roads. It sucks when I'm steadily putting money into fixing tires because I'm hitting potholes," Madison said.

For some drivers though, like Vasil Mamaladze, they don't care how the fix is funded, just as long as it gets done.

"There are certain areas that need to be fixed, and it's kind of a recurring issue," Mamaladze said.

THE BLIGHT

The price tag isn’t cheap in mid-Michigan’s fight against blight.

But getting tall grass cut or tearing down vacant buildings is a necessity, according to the Rev. Joseph McCutcheon, pastor at Freedom Center North.

“As much as we need dollars, we need to get the city back in shape where people can take pride in the neighborhoods again,” McCutcheon said.

McCutcheon runs a non-profit organization called “Revive Flint.” It benefits from government grants that help pay the bill for his efforts and those of Darry Atkins, 19, who gets a stipend for their services. The fear the funding pipeline may soon dry up, as Senate Republicans are targeting the grant program.

Both Atkins and McCutcheon said that would be devastating.

Congressman Dan Kildee is critical of the Senate’s plan. In a statement, he said:

“Once again Republicans in Congress have shown that they do not understand the unique challenges facing older industrial cities like Flint, Saginaw and Detroit. While we have made progress in stabilizing our housing market and removing thousands of vacant and abandoned homes, there is clearly more work to be done.”

While funding is critical, Atkins said the community has to take pride and respect its property.

“This is our city, we got to keep it clean, you know,” Atkins said. “We just can’t throw trash around and leave it like this – it looks ridiculous, with a whole bunch of grass and a whole bunch of trash.”

Michigan initially got $500 million, which more than $170 million was earmarked for blight removal.

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