Villas project on hold

Published 10:33 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

MURFREESBORO—Murfreesboro leaders are frustrated with the Howard Hunter Villas project and have decided to put the project on hold until additional information is received from the state.

At their Tuesday meeting, the Murfreesboro Town Council discussed the latest development on the Villas in which the Department of Commerce informed the town it would have to find other funding for an additional $104,000 for the project.

Recently, following a bid process, the redesigning of the Holly Hill lift station was awarded to Boney, Finch and Associates.

Upon receipt of the estimate for upgrading the lift station, the town submitted a request to the Department of Community Assistance (DCA) in order to reduce the number of homes from 20 to 10, a time extension on the town’s portion of a 2004 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and to increase funding by $104,000 to finalize infrastructure for the project and make the upgrades to the lift station.

“Through numerous conversations with the DCA (Department of Community Assistance) staff, it had been indicated that the reduction, extension and additional funds would be available if the town and the county would be able to come up with $20,000 total to match the state’s additional funding,” said Town Administrator Cathy Davison. “However, we received a letter last week that now states the town will be responsible to the entire $104,000.”

The town submitted the requests to DCA after officials with Hertford County Quality of Life Association’s (QUOLA) informed the town council in April of their desire to reduce the number of housing units. At that meeting, Joyce Peoples with QUOLA introduced officials with the Initiative who had joined the project as co-developer.

The $200,000 CDBG is nearly three years past its closeout date. Currently there is only $81,851.71 left on the grant. Construction on the property set aside for the Villas has yet to begin.

Davison told the council she had left numerous messages for officials with DCA regarding the situation. She also stated a message was left with the Initiative.

Council members discussed the matter at length and some were not too pleased with the project which has been lingering for seven years.

“We’re playing the waiting game,” said Mayor Lynn Johnson in reference to waiting on DCA to return Davison’s calls.

“We’ve been waiting for seven years. …We need to have some information and facts,” said Councilman Billy Theodorakis. “I think we need to cut our loses and get out.”

Several of the council members asked Davison what would happen if they move forward or if they pulled out of the project.

Davison said if the project moved forward the town would have to pay the $104,000, however if they decided not to proceed there would be an approximately $118,000 loss from the grant.

Councilwoman Gloria Odum suggested putting liens on the lots.

“A half a million dollars and they don’t even have a driveway,” said Theodorakis. “Some one’s getting hung out to dry…and it’s us.”

Council members agreed to put the project on hold until more information is obtained from DCA. They also directed Town Attorney Buddy Jones to study how the town can get out of the project if the council decides to do so.