City of Aiken Citizen Participation Plan
This plan describes how the City of Aiken, South Carolina (the City) will involve citizens in the planning, implementation, and assessment of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and any other Federal funded program to assure affirmative compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and in accordance with all other related statues, regulations and Executive Orders.
The purpose of this plan is to establish citizen (public) participation policies and procedures for information dissemination and public comment solicitation for development and review of programs and projects carried out by the City of Aiken. Public involvement also seeks to provide meaningful ways for residents and stakeholders to communicate with those making decisions regarding the allocation of Federal funds.
This plan was updated on July 11, 2022 for a substantial amendment, which the City of Aiken is adding an additional program under the CARES Act (CDBG-CV) for additional funds received for the COVID-19 pandemic in May, 2022.
The CDBG program is funded under the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, as amended. The City of Aiken has been designated an Entitlement City with oversight by the Department of Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, as amended through 1987. Each activity of a funded project developed for the City of Aiken must address one of the following three national objectives:
- Benefit to low-and-moderate income families, or
- Aid in the prevention of slums or blight; or
- Meet other community development needs having a particular urgency because
existing conditions pose a serious threat to the health or welfare of the community where other financial resources are not available to meet such needs.
The regulations give ultimate responsibility for the design and implementation of the CDBG program to the City elected officials. The regulations also require that citizens be given an opportunity to serve in a key advisory role to these elected officials. This is done through the Community Development Committee.
The Citizen Participation Plan must also address the proactive strategies, procedures, and desired outcomes that will result in the meaningful participation of Title VI protected populations, including minority and limited English proficient population groups, as well as, low-income populations.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disabilities, including matters related to language access for Limited English Proficient (LEP) persons.
Aiken CDBG Administrator – Economic Development Department
To ensure that residents are given a full opportunity to participate in the CDBG program and planning process of projects and activities, the CDBG Administrator, under the Economic Development Department, will function in an advisory capacity and as staff to the Mayor and City Council regarding program design, implementation and assessment. The Economic Development Department is located at 111 Chesterfield St, S, Aiken, South Carolina 29801, telephone number 803-642-7606.
The CDBG Administrator works with the Community Development Committee to ensure that the residents of Aiken are given a full opportunity to participate in the CDBG program. Citizens, group representatives and civic organizations are urged to make recommendations to the CDBG Administrator. The City is particularly interested in comments from low-and- moderate income persons, the elderly, and the disabled.
Scope of Citizen Participation
The CDBG Administrator ensures that citizens will be involved in development of activities, program implementation, and assessment of program performance when the City uses Entitlement Funds. Three general mechanisms for citizen participation are public review, public hearings, and comments submitted by individuals and groups directly to the CDBG Administrator, the City Manager, City Council and/or the Mayor.
Mailings, legal advertisements and other outreach efforts may be made to solicit input from a group of organizations that serve minorities, low-and-moderate income persons, as well as, persons with disabilities and limited English proficient populations.
Citizen Participation Plan:
The Citizen Participation Plan is available for public review and revision each year that the City submits an application for CDBG funding. The review may be held prior to the public hearing regarding the community development and housing needs assessment required for participation in the application process for CDBG funding. This may be done by public hearing or by notice of availability for review at the Economic Development Department or the City Manager’s Office located at 111 Chesterfield St, S, Aiken. A notice will be given to the public at least seven days prior to the notice given for the public hearing on community development and housing needs assessment. See section entitled “Public Hearings and Notices”.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 encourages the involvement of people with disabilities in the development and improvement of transportation, access to City buildings, sidewalk improvement and other services. In accordance with ADA guidelines, all meetings conducted by the City will take place in locations that are accessible to persons with mobility limitations. The City of Aiken’s public meeting notices specify that for those needing special accommodations, assistance or sign interpreter to participate in the meeting to notify City staff at least 48 hours before the meeting.
Development of Activities:
Prior to the development of any application, the CDBG Administrator will assess the City’s development and housing needs. A public hearing will be held to obtain citizen input on the community needs and possible uses of CDBG funding. Responding to the input from the public hearing and with the CDBG Administrator’s assistance, the Community Development Committee (the Committee) will prepare a recommendation for City Council on proposed activities with the primary goal of addressing the needs of low-and-moderate income citizens. City Council shall then formulate a proposed list of activities.
The list of proposed activities will be presented at one or more public hearings and citizen comments will be considered. Information concerning the CDBG program, including the amount of funds available and the range of eligible activities will be presented at the public hearing. The public hearing will provide an opportunity for citizens to express their views on proposed projects and to assist in the development of an overall CDBG program for the City.
Technical assistance will be provided to group representatives of persons of low-and- moderate income that request assistance in developing proposals for CDBG funding. See the section entitled “Technical Assistance” for specific type and level of assistance to be provided.
Any individual resident of the City of Aiken may contact the CDBG Administrator in person or by telephone at 803-642-7606 to request consideration of a proposed project addressing community development and housing need(s). The proposed project must meet CDBG guidelines.
Pre-Application and Application:
Citizen proposals to be included in any application will be reviewed by the CDBG Administrator and receive a response. Any written proposal submitted to the CDBG Administrator will receive a written response within fifteen (15) working days.
After development of any application for CDBG funding, and prior to submission of the application, a public hearing will be held to review and solicit public comments on the proposed activities. A Notice of the Public Hearing will be given in accordance with the requirements of the section entitled “Public Hearings and Notices”
Prior to making any substantial change in a CDBG funded activity, the City will hold one or more public hearings to inform its citizens, particularly those that may be affected, of the proposed change and to solicit public comments. Substantial changes include any change to increase or decrease the number or location of the beneficiaries as described in the approved application; any increase or decrease of 20% or more in a line item of the approved City budget; and any addition of a new activity or deletion of an approved activity.
The City of Aiken will undertake public information efforts to promote citizen participation. These efforts will include the following:
Public Hearings and Notices:
Any Notice of Public Hearing or Notice of Availability for Review related to CDBG or any other Federal funded programs and/or projects must be printed as a block ad in the non-legal section of the Aiken Standard newspaper. Such Notice must be published at least once and no less than seven (7) days prior to the public hearing. The notices will indicate the date, time, location, and projects to be considered.
In addition to the newspaper notices of public hearings or reviews, the following methods may be used by the City of Aiken to inform residents of areas in which CDBG and other Federal funded projects may be approved:
- Posting notices as appropriate at the following locations:
– Main entrance at the City’s Municipal Building – 111 Chesterfield St, S
– Main entrance at Smith Hazel Recreational facility – 400 Kershaw St, NE
– Main entrance at the Lessie B. Price Senior & Youth Center – 841 Edgefield Ave, NW
– Main entrance at H. Odell Weeks Center – 1700 Whiskey Rd
– Aiken County Library – 1310 Pine Log Rd
– Aiken Senior Life Services/Council on Aging – 1310 E. Pine Log Rd
– Faith-Based Organizations located in low-and-moderate income neighborhoods
– Neighborhood Associations
- Distributing notices in low-and-moderate income neighborhoods including grocery stores, businesses, laundromats and similar establishments.
- Posting a notice on the City’s Channel 4 of the local cable system, City’s website (www.cityofaikensc.gov), and the City’s Facebook page.
All public meetings concerning CDBG and any other Federal funded programs and projects will be held at times and locations convenient to the citizens of Aiken, particularly those who are actual or potential beneficiaries. The location of such meetings will be accessible to persons with a disability or the announcement of the meetings will indicate that assistance will be provided to accommodate the special needs of disabled persons.
A 30-day public comment period will be held to allow public agencies and other interested parties to comment on funded draft plans. Any comments should be submitted in writing the attention of the CDBG Administrator, City of Aiken, PO Box 1177, Aiken, SC 29802.
When the City of Aiken is receiving a special supplemental funding or allocation in case of an emergency/disaster situation, a 5-day comment period will be accepted. The 5-day period can run concurrently for comments on a plan amendments and amended citizen participation plans.
Needs of Limited English Proficiency (LEP):
Title VI directs each Federal agency to develop and implement a system by which limited English proficiency persons can meaningfully access the services it funds. Federal agencies published guidance for their respective grant recipients in order to assist them with their obligations to LEP persons under Title VI. Guidance was published and regulations were implemented requiring that grant recipients take responsible steps to ensure meaningful access to the benefits, services, information, and other important portions of their programs and activities for LEP individuals. The City of Aiken as an SCDOT subrecipient is required to ensure meaningful access to benefits, services and information for LEP persons. The City is currently working to implement a draft language implementation plan for LEP persons as part of its Title VI program.
Access to Public Records:
Citizens of the City of Aiken will be provided with reasonable access to records concerning any projects undertaken with CDBG funds. These records include copies of the Citizen Participation Plan, Applications, Environmental Review Records, and Annual Reports. These records will be available for review at the Community Affairs Division during the regular business hours of 8:10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Confidential information normally protected under the State and Federal Freedom of Information Laws may not be made available for public review. Information not normally available to the public would be concerning personal or business financial statements, social security numbers, earnings, or sources of income.
Complaints and Grievances:
Any complaint or grievance should be submitted in writing to the Economic Development Director, PO Box 1177, Aiken, SC 29802. The Economic Development Director will respond in writing within fifteen (15) working days. The City of Aiken will provide the written grievance and its proposed response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development or other appropriate entity, which will review and approve the response. If the response is unsatisfactory, the complainant should write directly to the Mayor, City Municipal Building, PO Box 1177, Aiken, SC 29802. If the citizen is still dissatisfied, he/she should write to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Planning
and Development Division, Strom Thurmond Federal Building, 1835 Assembly Street, Columbia, South Caroling 29201-2480. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will deny those appeals, which involve the consistent application of the City’s program policies. If the complainant is dissatisfied with the decision of the appeal, he/she may seek relief from the appropriate court of law.
Citizens requesting assistance to develop a proposal will be provided information on the following:
- CDBG Program Statement and Guidelines;
- CDBG Program Policies and Procedures;
- CDBG Application;
- Total amount of CDBG funds available;
- Range of eligible activities;
- The planning process and schedule of required public hearings;
- The role of citizens in the program; and
- Environmental policies, fair housing provisions, and contracting procedures.
A proposal summary must be submitted in writing to the CDBG Administrator for review by the deadline date. Only those proposals addressing activities consistent with identified economic development, community development or housing needs will be considered for further technical assistance to prepare the application. Any proposals developed by representatives of low-to-moderate income residents will be considered following all the requirements for public participation. The determination to submit the proposal to the Department of Housing and Urban Development or other appropriate entity for funding consideration is the prerogative of the City officials since the submission of any CDBG application requires approval by City Council.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Designated staff of the City of Aiken will monitor the amount of public participation resulting from each public outreach activity. This will be done through various means, including:
- Taking attendance at public outreach meetings using a sign-in sheet;
- Keeping a log of contacts with the public, via telephone, mail, email, fax, in-person meetings, or other means, which resulted from a public outreach activity;
- Keeping a record of attendance and involvement at City of Aiken events;
- Tracking the number of completed surveys or comment cards received from a public outreach event;
- Monitoring daily and weekly traffic to the City of Aiken’s website and number of page views;
- Tracking distribution of public information materials, including brochures, newsletters, and other publications;
- Tracking number of addresses on mailing lists; and
- Other means appropriate for the type of public outreach used.
This monitoring will identify any special circumstances, which may have contributed to an unusually high or low attendance. It will also identify the nature of the notification process for the public outreach activity, including press releases, paid advertising, mailed notices, emails, phone calls, and other means.