Grant aids Bertie County

Published 10:38 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

WINDSOR – Better access will be available for voters here and in Hexlena thanks to a new grant.

Thanks to the diligence of Bertie County officials, a grant from the Help America Vote Act will pave the parking lot at the Elections Office in Windsor and the polling place in Hexlena.

“The reason we originally applied was because of accessibility,” said Board of Elections Chairman Michael Freeman. “We wanted to make all of the polling places accessible for everyone including those with a full range of disabilities or impairments.”

After the board of elections voted to apply for the grant, Freeman approached the Bertie County Commissioners seeking a match to make the grant more competitive. The county leaders agreed to a 25 percent match which was $6,562.50.

The grant was reviewed and originally rejected, but thanks to the work of Bertie Elections Director Shirlie Davenport, the county made a second attempt to receive funding which proved successful.

Part of the second effort was a letter from Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb which explained the county had made a good-faith effort to provide the 25 percent match, but simply couldn’t add more.

“At the current time there are no additional funds available for the proposed improvements at the Hexlena Community Building or the Old County Office Building,” Lamb wrote. “Without this grant, the improvements will not be made at this time.”

The grant was reconsidered and approved allowing for a $26,116.70 for the improvements to the two facilities.

“It’s very important safety wise, accessibility and even cosmetically,” said Freeman. “When it rains right now, those two lots are nearly inaccessible due to standing water and mud. Although the county lot in Windsor is gravel, it’s mighty hard to roll a wheel chair or use crutches in that lot when it rains.”

Freeman said the improvements were part of the Board of Elections’ commitment to making all polling places in Bertie County accessible.

“Most of the polling places are at public buildings now,” he said. “We have worked hard to make sure they are at places that have handicap access and most of that has not cost the county any money.

“The only two places we have left are Windsor and Helena, which this grant will take care of,” he added.

The purpose of the HAVA grant is to help make polling places 100 percent accessible and ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliant.