City weighs response to federal findings in HUD report

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Wednesday that the city is weighing its options after receiving notification from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that it still expects the city to repay more than $400,000 in funds it deemed to have been either improperly spent or inadequately accounted for.

“I met with Larry Matthews and Lori Walker of the Department of Economic and Community Development to discuss the city’s options,” Hollingsworth said. “Larry [Matthews] told me that there were a couple of the HUD findings that he did not agree with. It has to do with different interpretations of the federal regulations.”

Hollingsworth said that Matthews and Walker plan to speak with Clinton Johnson, director of the Office of Community Planning and Development in the HUD Little Rock Field Office, in order to determine next steps.

“The city has to decide that in the event we do not agree with the Little Rock Field Office’s determination we can appeal the results of the finding to Washington, D. C.,” Hollingsworth said. “But first we need to clearly make sure that we understand the HUD interpretation.”

Hollingsworth said that because HUD claims that the city owes roughly $500,000 to the federal government, it is important to determine what the city’s options are.

“We need to find out if only non-federal funds can be used to repay the money,” Hollingsworth said. “We will also see if it is possible to satisfy the city’s obligation by receiving a commensurate cut in HUD funding over the course of the next several years.”