Questions are numerous; answers are scarce

Published 10:54 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

MURFREESBORO—Officials here have the questions, but no one seems to have the answers.

As the Howard Hunter Villas project continues to be stalled, Murfreesboro officials have yet to receive much needed answers regarding how the project did progress to its current status.

At their Tuesday meeting, Town Administrator Cathy Davison gave a report to council members about the Howard Hunter Villa Committee, which met for the first time last week.

The committee consists of Davison, Council members Gloria Odum and Bill Theodorakis, Town Attorney Buddy Jones, County Manager Loria Williams Public Works Director Gene Byrd and Tara Kenchen the North Carolina Community Development Initiative (a co-developer on the project).

At a previous meeting, Kenchen stated to council members she was willing to serve on committee, but if she could not make it another Initiative representative would attend.

In her report to the Council, Davison said Kenchen was unable to attend the first committee meeting, but did briefly participate via telephone.

Davison drafted a certified letter to Kenchen will all the concerns and questions the committee had on the project.

Davison explained before the town was able to accept any part of the project’s water and sewer system, the water and sewer line certification must be reviewed. Upon the town’s acceptance of the reports, the town’s acceptance and Engineer’s certification will be submitted to the state.

Among those items requested was:

Bacteria test reports for water lines installed.

Pressure test reports for the water lines installed.

Sewer test reports for the sewer lines.

A material list and the name of the engineer that certified the materials being acceptable per the permit.

Davison noted in her letter that Byrd had made “numerous requests” to the project’s engineer, Appian Engineering, and the Initiative for the items listed above.

In an interview with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Davison said upon being contacted by Appian Engineering, who offered their assistance, she was able to provide a copy of the letter to the company.

Also requested by the committee to be provided was:

A project timeline that was submitted to the Development Center.

List of the lending sources for the project, as well as their funding cycles.

A comprehensive breakdown of the monies the Initiative has put into the project.

Davison also provided additional questions formulated by the committee regarding the project:

How many individuals and/or families have been through homeowners counseling?

If individuals and/or families have been through counseling, are they still eligible for financing a home?

If there are individuals eligible for financing, what agency or financial institution is going to provide financing for these perspective home owners? United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development does not have funding available until April 2009.

In her report to the council, Davison said Kenchen stated she would provide an answer regarding the water and sewer lines by the next council meeting (Tuesday), but as of 10 minutes before the meeting began she had not heard from Kenchen. Davison told the News-Herald as of Wednesday afternoon she still had not heard from Kenchen, but did receive a receipt for the letter being delivered.

Town Attorney Buddy Jones said he spoke with Williams and she said there were no permits filed for what has been done on the Villas project.

When asked, Williams said that comment came up in response and relation to the town of Murfreesboro taking over the water lines for the project.

She said in speaking with the inspections department, there were no records filed with the county concerning the project.

Williams noted she could not speak as to which state permits had or had not been filed.

At the town council meeting, Davison said the Quality Of Life Association (QUOLA) is listed on the deed and the Initiative has a $75,000 lien (deed of trust) on the property.

“I’m skeptical we will get the information from this person (Kenchen) and if we get I’m not sure it will be what we need,” said Theodorakis.

Davison said at the council’s Nov. 25 meeting, council members will be able to make a decision whether or not to move forward with the project pending information obtained.

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) on behalf of QUOLA in order to reduce the number of homes planned for the Villas 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.

The $200,000 CDBG is nearly three years past its closeout date. Currently there is only $81,851.71 left on the grant.

Previously, town officials agreed to put the project on hold after they were informed by DCA if the project moved forward the town would have to pay the $104,000. However, if the town does not move forward, there will be an approximate $118,000 loss from the grant.