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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expected to ‘monitor’ funds delivered by prior Williamsport administration

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is likely to perform a “monitoring” of the city Department of Community and Economic Development to clear up matters prior to the current administration.

Efforts are under way to ensure the department temporarily at the Trade and Transit Centre I office building is in complete compliance with programs of HUD, such as Community Development Block Grant distribution.

“We are fairly confident in the future we will have a monitoring in the city,” said Skip Memmi, city director of the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Memmi’s update was a part of the meeting of the finance committee, which gave a positive recommendation to the administration’s request for approving a professional services contract for consulting services with SEDA-Council of Governments.

Memmi told he committee those in the department, including himself and Chelsea Blair, deputy director, are extremely uncomfortable with what has been done in the past and that the prior consultant, M&L, did not provide half of the service that department officials believe that SEDA-COG can provide.

The cost of the contract is not to exceed $59,500 and it is for 2022.

The primary goal is to manage programs deliverable through HUD funds, he said.

The contract was reviewed by Norman Lubin, city solicitor.

The cost of the contract is an allowable cost by HUD, Memmi said.

SEDA-COG, a quasi-governmental agency based in Union County, has the required expertise to help the city to manage its Community Development Block Grant program, Memmi said.

Tyler Dombroksi, a representative with SEDA-COG, provided a program outline of the services anticipated.

Similar consulting work was done for Bloomsburg and Berwick, he said.

The city department has gone from eight individuals down to five with no immediate intention for additional hires, Memmi said.

River Valley Transit auditors ask for more money

In a separate but finance-related matter, RKL, of Lancaster, the independent auditing firm reviewing finances in 2019-2020 for River Valley Transit is asking for an additional $9,500 due to work related to the “adverse opinion” given by the firm and the debt portion.

Due to portions outside of the original scope of work.

The increase has to do with the adverse opinion given the audit draft and extra requirements by the state Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration.

Councilwoman Bonnie Katz said she would hope by 2023 that the city would have a clear and accurate picture of River Valley Transit finances.

“Better than a decade of clean, unmodified audits,” Councilwoman Liz Miele said, a reference to apparently clean audits for the transportation arm of the city up until RKL discovered numerous evidences of misallocation, and potentially misappropriation of funds in the prior administration.

The transit arm’s management of state and federal grants for transportation use is under a criminal investigation by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The committee gave the proposals positive recommendations.

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