The city council pulled proposed federal grant funding allocation for a new “wellness center” at the controversial Montgomery Street site under FBI investigation.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration sought to allocate $171,052 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to run the program called “Paterson Division of Health Community Outreach Program” from 147 Montgomery Street.
Council members were not keen on opening a branch of the health division at the site. Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, sought details about the services the program will be offering to residents.
“What exactly are we doing?” asked Jackson. “Is the capacity overwhelming in the current facility? Is there that much of a need in that area?”
The program will provide screening for blood pressure, chronic disease, mental health, and dental services, health officer Paul Persaud told the council on March 7th, 2017. Some of the services are identical to what is presently offered at the health department site on Broadway and Memorial Drive.
Persaud said by locating the program in the troubled Wrigley Park section will make services more accessible to residents.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s that far away from the current location,” remarked Jackson.
Jackson wanted to know specifically where the dollars would be spent. Community development director Barbara Blake-McLennon said the funds would go towards hiring staff at the site like an assistant dental health technician, substance abuse counselor, and a mental health counselor.
Jackson also wanted to know whether the allocation would be a recurring grant award every year.
Jackson said this is money that could be better used elsewhere like providing recreation for young people. He and council president William McKoy also thought the administration should make presentations to the council when introducing new programs.
Blake-McLennon said the funds can be placed in contingency. Council members pulled the funding for the new program on Thursday night.
The proposed location of the program continues to house former governor James McGreevey’s prisoner reentry program. He attempted to move the reentry program out of the site following an FBI investigation into the renovation of the building owned by a private church, but a judge issued an order forcing him to remain at the location.
The city relocated its referral service, the Neighborhood Assistance Office, from Ellison Street to the Montgomery Street building’s basement earlier in the month. The proposed “wellness center” would have shared space at the building with the Neighborhood Assistance Office.
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