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County receives 22 stimulus applications

Team will make awards to projects that create jobs, as well as stimulate economy.

More than 22 applicants are competing for $1.3 million in federal stimulus funding awarded to Luzerne County’s Community Development office, according to office Director Andy Reilly.

Friday was the deadline to apply for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

County commissioners designated a team of seven employees to rank the applications, Reilly said. The county must submit a final plan on how the money will be spent by June 4, he said.

The money must be spent on shovel-ready projects that create jobs and stimulate the economy, Reilly said. Funded projects must be completed by Jan. 31, 2010.

More weight will be given to projects that benefit several municipalities, as opposed to a small neighborhood, he said.

“We’ll look favorably upon applications that benefit the most people,” he said.

To qualify, projects must principally benefit low/moderate income residents, eliminate slum and blight or meet an “urgent need” as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a notice Reilly sent to prospective applicants.

Commissioners formally approved receipt of the $1.3 million at their meeting Thursday.

An unrelated county community development office initiative to revitalize Kingston and Edwardsville also received final approval from commissioners on Thursday.

County approval will allow the county Redevelopment Authority to make offers to buy several properties along Main Street in Edwardsville and Kingston. These properties will then be demolished, he said.

County officials held a press conference announcing the plan in February 2007 to highlight the “before” version of Main Street in Edwardsville. One side of a few blocks of Main Street falls in Kingston.

Officials from both municipalities want to eliminate vacant eyesores and improve the image and appearance of the stretch, hoping that development at the Edwardsville Shopping Center will spill onto Main Street.

Reilly said the first phase of the project is estimated to cost $1 million, with roughly half coming from gambling proceeds and the rest from his office.

The funding is part of a federal neighborhood revitalization program designed to rebuild Main Streets in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods to encourage home ownership and business development, Reilly said.

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