Two Bellevue City Council members expressed concern Monday night that $26,825 in federal tax money was being contributed to a “brand new” sports non-profit that owns no building and has not yet accumulated a significant track record of performance.

Council members also expressed concern that $60,000 was being granted to a private renovation of an Olde Towne building that is valued by Sarpy County for tax purposes at just over $43,000.

The grants are part of a $356,838 allocation to the city from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of Community Development Block Grants. The money may be granted to public or private entities but must be used to improve low-income areas of the city or enhance the lives of people living in such areas.

Abby Highland, who administers the CDBG program on behalf of the city, said Backyard Sports, which the city’s CDBG Committee recommended receive $26,825, is similar to the longstanding Bellevue Junior Sports Association in that it provides sporting opportunities for low-income youth.

Highland said she believes Backyard Sports partners with BJSA, the public schools, and uses public fields to provide sports opportunities. She said the money will be used primarily to pay participation fees for children whose families cannot afford them.

Councilmen Paul Cook and Pat Shannon said they hope representatives from Backyard Sports will attend the council’s July 23 session so that they can be questioned more closely about their operation.

Shannon also questioned the wisdom of donating $60,000 to renovate a privately owned building at 2110 Franklin St., which he said should have been condemned and demolished 20 years ago.

The building is valued at $43,165 by the county.

Shannon said public infrastructure projects should be favored over assisting private endeavors.

Council members will take a final vote on the grant recommendations at their July 23 session.

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