Water-sewer plan may help with grant

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

Mount Airy officials are poised to approve a 20-year plan for the city’s water-sewer facility needs.

The proposed plan has both long- and short-term goals, including helping to land a $2 million grant.

The municipality apparently is pulling out all the stops in an effort to secure the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to replace aging water and sewer lines in the Maple Street-Merritt Street area.

This includes the anticipated passage of the 20-year measure by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners during a meeting Thursday at 7 p.m.

While the water and sewer capital improvements plan — covering about 40 pages — is mainly designed to serve as a guidance tool for identifying long-range utility priorities, it was updated just this month to address the present grant project.

Wording in a resolution the commissioners will consider for passage Thursday night specifically refers to the Maple Street-Merritt Street project and the CDBG grant application to replace lines there.

The resolution states that adopting the capital improvement plan update will adhere more closely to the application guidelines.

Also, officials say the purpose of the update is to clarify that the proposed infrastructure project is a high priority for rehabilitation by the city government, due to failing lines in the neighborhood targeted. City Public Works Director Jeff Boyles says these mostly date to the 1930s.

Such steps are being taken due to the denial of a grant application Mount Airy submitted for the same project in 2015.

Another has involved recently enlisting the aid of a consulting firm, Martin-McGill Inc. of Asheville, which has a track record of helping other communities seek such grants that are highly competitive.

“It’s not a thing that you apply and you get it,” city Community Development Coordinator Martin Collins said at a commissioners meeting on Aug. 18 when the grant application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was approved.

“I would describe it as extremely competitive,” Collins added.

Out of 40 applications submitted by various communities for CDBG money during the 2015 grant cycle, only 10 (25 percent) were awarded.

“It’s a once-a-year period that they accept applications,” Collins said of HUD.

The Maple Street-Merritt Street area ranks number one on a priority list for long-range water-sewer rehabilitation projects aimed at addressing older utility lines in town.

It is a residential neighborhood dominated by single-family homes, with some apartment complexes there, also.

Priority for grant awards is largely based on the financial condition of residents to be served.

Nearly 70 percent of those in the Maple Street-Merritt Street project area, which also includes Pippen and Porter streets, are low-and-moderate-income individuals as defined by HUD based on 2014 data.

The total estimated cost of the rehab project is $2.2 million.

Other identified water-sewer priorities proposed through 2020, due to age and water-quality issues, include the Willow Street-Rawley Street area; another section of Willow along with Market, Oak and Virginia streets; Franklin and Willow streets; and the Pine Street-South Street section.

Mount Airy officials annually identify water and sewer lines in greatest need of replacement and have been budgeting about $600,000 a year toward that effort, so receiving the $2 million CDBG grant could greatly benefit local taxpayers.

Park rezoning hearing

Also during Thursday night’s commissioners meeting, a public hearing will be held on the proposed rezoning of park and recreation facilities in Mount Airy.

These include Riverside Park, Westwood Park, Tharrington School Park, Graham Field and H.B. Rowe Environmental Park.

Presently, those facilities are located on land parcels that reflect an array of zoning classifications, including both industrial and residential designations.

For example, industrial uses are allowed at both Riverside and Westwood parks.

A rezoning proposal that will be the subject of Thursday night’s public hearing calls for all five park and recreation facilities to be placed in B-3 CD zones (a neighborhood business district allowing conditional uses). Along with the public park facet, that would include use by mobile food vendors.

City Planning Director Andy Goodall has said that the proposal reflects a need for “map maintenance” to achieve uniformity and more appropriation classification of the park properties.

Later in Thursday’s meeting after the public hearing, the commissioners are scheduled to hold rezoning votes on each of the five sites.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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