After initially being denied grant funding for water and sewer improvements in two different areas of town, Mount Airy officials are hoping a different strategy will produce better results for a reapplication.
Instead of seeking a pair of grants for both projects, they have opted to pare that to one — pending an upcoming public hearing.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 last Thursday to set that hearing regarding a proposed application for $2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) infrastructure funding. If successful, the money will be used to replace aging water and sewer lines in the mostly residential Maple Street/Merritt Street area.
That was one of the two sections for which Mount Airy originally sought CDBG funding last September. The other was the so-called Westside Redevelopment Area, which includes the former Spencer’s Inc. industrial site the city government now owns and is trying to revitalize, and a public housing neighborhood.
However, no grant funds will be sought for that area during the present reapplication process, which City Manager Barbara Jones reflects an attempt to improve the chances for success in light in fierce competition for CDBG assistance.
“We’re trying to do the project we have the best chance of being funded,” Jones explained in the wake of last week’s vote to hold the public hearing. It will occur during an Aug. 18 council meeting that begins at 7 p.m., allowing citizens to offer input on the proposed application.
Nearly 70 percent of residents in the Maple Street/Merritt Street project area are low- and moderate-income individuals as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development based on 2014 data.
No one is to be displaced or will require temporary relocation as a result of the proposed project, a city resolution states.
The area in question is bounded on the south by West Independence Boulevard, on the north and east by Maple Street and on the west by North South Street.
When initially applying for the $2 million in grant funding last year in two separate applications targeting both areas of town in need, city officials were aware that only one likely would be funded. And as it turned out, neither was approved.
The city manager said that this time around, the municipality wants to avoid a situation of two projects butting heads with each other for funding.
“We didn’t want to compete with ourselves,” Jones said.
However, she said that choosing to seek funds for the work in the Maple Street/Merritt Street area was no editorial statement on the merits of the Westside Redevelopment Area.
“It’s not secondary,” she said of work in that section where the city is facing major infrastructure improvements in preparation for redevelopment projects including a hotel/banquet center, market-rate apartments and a performing arts/business center.
Jones indicated that it is a matter of timing.
“We may end up still doing the other work,” she said.
“I’m pushing for both.”
The N.C. Division of Water Infrastructure is accepting grant applications under a state program to administer the CDBG funds. The application deadline for the next cycle of water and wastewater infrastructure construction grants is Sept. 30.
City officials are partnering with Martin-McGill Inc., a consulting firm in Asheville, to prepare Mount Airy’s grant application to submit to the state agency.
In another matter, the city commissioners have appointed a new member to the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Commission.
This was facilitated by the relocation of commission member Dr. Greg Little out of the city. Little, who was superintendent of Mount Airy schools, left earlier this year for a similar post in South Carolina.
Replacing him on the recreation group will be Dr. Kim Morrison, the new city schools superintendent.
Morrison will serve out Little’s unexpired term, which ends on March 31, 2018.
The Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Commission is an advisory group to the city council which makes recommendations on programs and facilities in the city.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.