HUD response expected in about 30 days, PBECD says

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to address within about 30 days the Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development Department’s response to a recent HUD audit.

PBECD responded this week to HUD’s findings, concerns and recommended corrective actions resulting from the federal agency’s March audit of PBECD’s 2012 community development block grant and HOME programs.

PBECD Interim Director Larry Matthews — during questioning from Evelyn Horton, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s chief aide — disclosed the estimated time allotment in a Friday morning meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council’s Community Development Committee.

Matthews advised in an Aug. 30 letter to Clinton E. Johnson, an administrator in HUD’s Little Rock office, that PBECD had completed an internal investigation on the 14 findings and two concerns revealed in HUD’s monitoring review. Matthews also advised Johnson of PBECD’s suggested alternatives to HUD’s proposed corrective actions against the city.

HUD’s original contention was that PBECD improperly spent $199,907.89 and must repay that amount or have the sum cut from the city’s 2013 federal funding. HUD also said the city must provide documentation for another $279,161.23 in expenditures or either pay that amount or have it forfeited from 2013 funding as well.

Matthews said Friday that he’s hoping HUD will instead allow any required reimbursements to be taken from 2014 funding so current projects might be completed in a more timely fashion.

In other business at Friday’s meeting, the committee unanimously decided to forward to the full council a recommendation for increased Community Housing Development Organization compensation to contractor Jerry Riley for work on housing near the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Matthews warned that upping the project percentage payment to a 20-percent maximum could net resistance from HUD. The standard rate is 10-15 percent. Riley was approved for 20 percent, the largest possible share.

Alderman Glen Brown motioned for the committee’s nod, saying he had “no problem with” the requested amount. Alderman Charles Boyd seconded the call. Alderwoman Thelma Walker, who chairs the panel, did not vote.

The committee also received updates from Matthews on Gwen Buckingham Drive and Westside Memorial Park projects.