BLD Group Breaks Floor on Two Backyard-Model Condo Communities Totaling 528-Models in Panama Metropolis Seaside and Fort Myers, Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – The BLD Group broke ground for Sunnyside Apartments and V2 Apartments, two garden-style apartment communities in Panama City Beach and Fort Myers, Florida, respectively.

The Sunnyside Apartments comprise 220 apartment buildings on the Panama City Beach Highway. The community will include one, two and three-room apartments.

The project’s amenities include a resort-inspired swimming pool, clubhouse, BBQ area, game room, local market, dog park, and private work booths. The community will also include a club-quality gym with a yoga / pilates studio.

The apartment interiors include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, wood vinyl floors throughout the living area, tile backsplashes, full size washers and dryers, walk-in closets, tile shower stalls, and linen closets.

The community also has easy access to Pier Park in downtown Panama City and is about a 5-minute walk to the beach.

The project is expected to welcome the first move-ins in autumn 2022.

The V2 Apartments comprise 308 apartment buildings on Winkler Avenue. The community will include one, two and three-room apartments.

The project’s amenities include a resort-inspired swimming pool, clubhouse, BBQ area, game room, local market, dog park, and private work booths. The community will also include a club-quality gym with a yoga / pilates studio.

The apartment interiors include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, wood vinyl floors throughout the living area, tile backsplashes, full size washers and dryers, walk-in closets, tile shower stalls, and linen closets.

The community will have easy access to downtown Fort Myers and I-75. The project is expected to welcome the first move-ins in winter 2022.

Grant cash used to supply psychological well being sources to native minority communities

CINCINNATI – Deaconess Associations Foundation awarded grants totaling $ 635,000 to 18 local organizations, and one of those organizations uses its money to provide mental health resources to minority communities in the tri-state.

The healthcare connection is an organization that provides health services to underserved and uninsured people in the area. They received about $ 100,000 from the Deaconess Associations Foundation and plan to use that money to hire three new psychologists for their team.

They will hire a behavioral medicine director to oversee mental health services and a case manager to deal with social determinants such as race and socioeconomic status to improve access to medical care.

The third position will be a behavioral medicine specialist at their school-based center in the Princeton School District. This specialist will help students examine mental and behavioral warning signs so they can identify problems and address them early.

“We are only just beginning to understand the challenges the pandemic has brought with it,” said Jolene Joseph, CEO of Healthcare Connection. “Physical health is not isolated from what we see of mental health and drug use, so it is incredibly important to intervene with young people early on.”

Some of the other organizations that have received part of the grant are the Behavioral Medicine Services in the Greater Cincinnati Area, Northern Kentucky Children’s Behavioral Health and Lighthouse youth and family service.

Subdivision-style rental communities popping up round Austin

by: Parimal M. Rohit and Mitchell Parton, Austin Business Journal

Posted: May 21, 2021 / 2:44 PM CDT
Updated: May 21, 2021 / 2:49 p.m. CDT

The colony under construction near Sam Houston Drive and FM 969 outside of Bastrop. (ARNOLD WELLS / ABJ)

AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal) – Build it and they will come? More like they come and it cannot be built fast enough.

Home builders are barely able to keep up with the demand for new homes, leading to skyrocketing prices across the state. For example, the median home price in Metro Austin hit an all-time high of $ 425,000 in March, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Inventories were at a record low of 0.4 months.

ABJ: The Austin area’s housing stock is growing only inches while prices are soaring

Rising prices, as well as changing feelings about remote working and personal life sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, have paid particular attention to a trend that has been gaining momentum for years: detached single-family homes built specifically for the rental market.

While styled similarly to typical subdivisions for sale, these properties often share the same characteristics as a Class A apartment complex – leasing staff, maintenance staff, and facilities like swimming pools, dog parks, and fitness centers. Several such properties have been built in the Austin area, and several more are on the rise. Many will surely follow.

The single-family rental product “serves a need for people who live in the suburbs and want more space but are struggling to collect a down payment,” said Vaike O’Grady, regional director of Zonda, an Austin housing market research firm.

You can read the rest of the story on the Austin Business Journal website.

Playground, new Ford F-550: How native communities spend federal cash for COVID-19 reduction

(WKBN) – A playground, surveillance equipment and new vehicles — those were just a few of the purchases made by local communities with federal funding they received through the CARES Act.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security money was distributed by the U.S. Department of Treasury to communities across the U.S. for expenditures that popped up during the public health crisis.

“It was largely based on per capita allocation. There were some other factors like poverty, school districts… but the real limiting factor was what the money was used for,” said Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber.

WKBN 27 First News began requesting documents from local communities at the beginning of February and received them through March of this year for last year’s round of CARES Act funding.

While most of the money given to communities covered the purchases of items like personal protective equipment and sanitizing spray, some communities were creative with their use of funds.

The purchase of surveillance cameras at Brookfield Park, for example, led to disagreement among trustees about whether the funds were being properly used.


Cameras for contact tracing in the park? Brookfield trustees disagree on use of funding

Trustee Ron Haun touted the purchase for the purposes of contact tracing. He said the cameras would provide another tool to the health department to help track down infection, as the park is used by multiple people and sports teams.

“If somebody gets the virus, and we have a breakout because of some events happening at our park, we’ll be able to go back and review that to inform others in case they were in contact with it and help inform our health department,” Haun said.

Trustee Dan Suttles, however, was against the purchase and questioned the legality of adding lights to the camera poles as well as using other funds for the lighting.

In the end, the cameras were installed. During their March meeting, the lighting purchase was reexamined and eventually passed with the other trustees’ approval.

Brookfield wasn’t the only community to spend the funds this way. West Farmington also noted in its purchase orders that $5,000 was spent at Hudson Communications for cameras for park surveillance of social distancing. Newton Township also spent over $8,000 on security cameras in the administration building for the purpose of assisting in contact tracing.

Kris Wilster, of the Trumbull County Health Department, said on March 31 that the health department had received no calls regarding contact tracing from any local communities. He said there hadn’t been many complaints, in general, regarding COVID-19 exposure and contact-tracing efforts.

He said if contact tracing was needed, the cameras may be helpful but that a need hadn’t come up.

Green Township also gave $8,500 to the South Range school district toward the purchase of cameras, though those cameras were used to detect masks and read temperatures. The cameras projected to a flat-screen television, which would be observed by a nurse as the students arrived, according to Fiscal Officer Randy Chismar.

Faber said he held over 40 video conferences with more than 500 elected officials in Ohio, talking about what they could and couldn’t do with CARES Act funds.

“We were very open,” Faber said. “Ask us if you think this could be a COVID or CARES Act-related expenditure and we’ll give you our best guidance. We really hope people did that to try and avoid problems later on.”

Still, he’s seen some interesting spending requests among some communities in the state.

“We had one township that asked us if they could rehab all of their parks with CARES Act money. When you push it to the logical extreme, you can make an argument that people were going to spend more time outside so you probably need to build new shelter houses and that kind of stuff with it, but that’s pretty far of an extension. I asked the question to township officials ‘Under that logic, are you going to repave all of your roads because people need to drive from their house to the park?’” Faber said.

His office recently started the auditing process and anticipates finding communities that pushed the envelope too far.

When it comes to spending on security cameras, Faber said he can see both sides of the argument. He said it was generally OK for local governments to spend their funds on public safety.

“But that doesn’t mean go out and replace all of your cruisers and or all your fire trucks necessarily. You had to be relatively judicial,” Faber said.

Some communities did purchase new vehicles with their CARES funding, many citing a need among first responders who deal with the pandemic daily.

Hanover, Vienna and Warren townships spent money on vehicles for first responders. Southington spent just over $40,000 for a pick-up truck to keep employees socially distanced. West Township spent $39,500 on a dump truck and noted a $500 downpayment on a truck in their CARES documents.

Braceville Township spent over $127,000 on vehicles to “separate employees.”

Mesopotamia purchased a new plow truck to “eliminate the sharing of vehicles” and to “promote social distancing.” The township reasoned that this would cut down on operational downtime due to sanitizing the vehicles or an employee’s sickness.

Weathersfield Township spent $333,917 on a rescue truck, pick-up truck and dump truck, according to the itemized list that was provided to WKBN. And Newton Township spent $48,585 for a 2020 Ford F550 outfitted with over $39,000 in accessories, including a dump body and plow, for the road department “to allow social distancing for employee work required COVID-19 protection.”

Warren Township also spent $5,880 on two Tasers for the police department, citing an increase in call volume during the pandemic and a need to eliminate the sharing of the devices.

Also among some of the more uncommon purchases, Leetonia spent over $46,000 on a playground, as well as $4,464 on outdoor tables for the park.

Leetonia Mayor Kevin Siembida said they focused on purchasing items that could be used by village residents for years to come.

“We didn’t need thousands of dollars in Clorox wipes,” he said, adding, “We wanted something that could be used long-term.”

Siembida said the old playground was an aging wooden one, and the new one will be easier to sanitize, as it is stainless steel. The purchase of the playground and outdoor tables was to get people out of the house during the lockdown in a socially-distanced way, he said.


Leetonia auctioning off old playground to make way for new one; new pocket park finished

Siembida said he wasn’t concerned that the purchases were inappropriate as he didn’t get any pushback from the state.

Gustavus Township also invested in its park, spending $2,274 on six new poly benches engraved with the township’s name and six new picnic tables, costing $2,214.

How local communities spent their money

The village of Leetonia also purchased a digital sign for $48,280 in order to get messages, especially those about COVID-19, out in a more effective manner.

Boardman Township also spent money on messaging. Administrator Jason Loree explained a $15,000 invoice that was sent from “All Traffic Solutions” for a “radar message sign” and related purchases as being used for vaccination-related messaging.

“The speed trailers also act as mobile messaging. As it can just be used in that capacity, we purchased two of them. It has electronic signage similar to what the county sheriff uses. We are going to be working with the mall and using them when the old Dillard’s building becomes a vaccination site to direct people [where] to go,” he explained via email in February.

Vienna Township spent $2,000 on a gazebo roof. According to Fiscal Officer Linda McCullough, this purchase was for social-distancing purposes. The churches were permitted to use it for outside services, and it was leaking. 

McCullough said, as with all of the township’s purchases, the township received the opinion of their attorney before making any CARES-related purchase as to whether it was an acceptable use of funds.

Elkrun Township spent $4,377 to remove old carpeting. Purchases were also made to upgrade a furnace and install new flooring, though those hadn’t been billed yet at the time of WKBN’s request.

Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner said the upgrades were made to the township’s meeting area, and they were for “air freshening purposes” for better air quality in the public meeting area.

One thing that appeared to be common in the invoices is a need to shift toward a virtual work environment, with many communities purchasing items like laptops and iPads for their employees. 

Mahoning County spent over $628,000 on improving telework capabilities for public employees. That included the purchases of laptops, video conferencing systems and technology expansion and access. 

Trumbull County also made the purchase of several laptops and iPads, as well as video-conferencing software.


Construction of new vaccine building at Trumbull Co. Fairgrounds hits roadblock

Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda said a primary focus for their CARES Act funds, however, was to help local businesses and food banks.

“I think we had five food banks that we gave $100,000 to,” Fuda said. “We were fortunate to receive that money… Small businesses, they’ve really been affected by this virus and what we were able to do for them is phenomenal.”

Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said the county spent its funds to help local businesses and people in the Valley who need it.

“It’s unbelievable what this Valley has experienced through this pandemic,” Rimedio-Righetti said.

She commended state officials as the next round of funding is in the early planning period for distribution.

“This is a start and hopefully this little bit their giving everyone will help the economy… and get somewhat back to normal,” she said.


Youngstown council approves using COVID money to pay back water dept. funds

Faber said he was glad to see many counties in the state spend their funds this way.

“I am impressed by how many local governments across Ohio chose to not just take the money for government operations, but rather to put that money back into the citizens and try to get the money where it was needed,” Faber said.

There were other qualifications for CARES Act funds as well. The money couldn’t have been budgeted in March when the pandemic was approaching.

“Otherwise, it wouldn’t be COVID-related if you’re just supplementing what you already budgeted,” Faber said.

Also, the money originally had to be completely expended by the end of 2020. The deadline has since been extended until December 2021, but it was too late for some communities.

“For a lot of local governments that rushed to get their money spent because we weren’t sure what was going to happen, that knowledge would have been much better earlier,” Faber said.

For other communities, the callback dates were pushing up against the federal extension, meaning they had to return some of their funds.

Craig Beach received a total of $47,356 but had to return $25,000 from that funding to the county due to not using it by the December deadline. West Township also returned $3,821 in unused funds, and Unity Township returned almost $46,688.

Faber explained that unused money was essentially clawed back to the counties and then back to the state. He’s waiting on some guidance from the federal government on what will happen to that unused funding, but he expects some equalization to happen during the next round of funds.

“What we’re really encouraging local governments to do is two things: where you can, get the money back to your citizens, your taxpayers in your community. Don’t just find new ways to spend government money,” he said.

Faber said that does appear to be happening locally, as most local governments appear to be fiscally-responsible with their spending.

“The second thing we’re cautioning people not to do is don’t let your CARES Act one-time funds get mixed into your operation budget, because once that happens, you start getting into a structural imbalance to where the new revenues when the new CARES Act or the one-time monies go away, you don’t have the money to pay for your ongoing stable operation,” he added.

There is a process for making sure the funding is spent appropriately, but Faber acknowledged that there are challenges.

“There is so much money coming into this, we know that there is going to be enhanced difficulty in our ability to track of all those monies. We’re seeing it in the unemployment comp system, which is just absolutely ripe with fraudulent claims,” he said.

He recommended that if people have concerns or questions, that they go to ohioauditor.gov to file a complaint or inquiry.