Rural Center awards $345,000 grant

Published 9:02 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

GATESVILLE – The battle is only one-half over.

Recently, Gates County officials were formally notified that the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center has agreed to provide a Utility Infrastructure grant to the county.

That grant, in the amount of $345,000, will extend sewer service to a proposed privately-owned recreational facility that will serve the local area as well as providing much-needed jobs.

Meanwhile, the county is still awaiting word from Golden Leaf in regards to a request for a $310,500 grant to complete the wastewater infrastructure portion of the planned project.

“We plan to discuss this project at our Monday (March 15) night meeting,” Gates County Manager Toby Chappell said. “This grant, one that will be used for internal wastewater inside the planned commerce center across from the high school, is key to the long term success of this project.”

In November of last year, the Gates County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to seek a combined $645,500 from the North Carolina Rural Center and the Golden LEAF Foundation to pay for the wastewater infrastructure that will support the project.

That project, submitted by the developer – Dr. Lewis Fisher Jr., proposes to construct a multi-purpose recreational facility on 7.5 acres of land within the Kim Olds complex located off US 158 across from Gates County High School.

Plans for the facility include a bowling alley, movie theater, indoor bumper cars, food court and games arcade. The proposed Family Fun Center is projected to serve not only Gates County citizens, but those in Bertie, Hertford, Chowan, Camden, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.

Additionally, the bowling alley can support Chowan University who recently added women’s bowling to its list of athletic programs.

The Center will also provide much-needed jobs in the local area as it plans to employ up to 35 individuals.

But before those plans can move to the next phase, $690,000 was needed for the wastewater infrastructure (sanitary sewer pump station and piping). Gates County is in the process of completely taking over the wastewater treatment facility still in operation at the recently closed Gates Correctional Center. County officials are working on a larger wastewater project that will serve a core area along US 158 from just west of Eleanors Crossroads to just east of Easons Crossroads, including the Kim Olds property. That entire area has been targeted for commercial and residential growth.

As part of their grant, the NC Rural Center requires a five percent match from the entity applying for the grant. In this case, that match amounts to $34,500 and will be paid by the developer.

As part of the funding request, the county is requiring the developer to obtain a performance bond.

“Both the Rural Center and Golden LEAF require if they give you a certain amount of dollars, the project in which you are requesting the funds must produce a certain number of jobs,” Chappell explained at the November meeting.

Chappell added that, technically, Gates County will be the recipient of these grants, if approved.

“Therefore, technically, the county is on the hook to pay this money back if this project does not fulfill the job requirements of the granting agencies,” Chappell said. “Obviously, we do not want to pay back nearly $650,000 if this project does not come to fruition.”

The performance bond acts as an insurance policy for the county.

“If this project does not come to fruition in any shape, form or fashion, the bond kicks in and the money is paid back,” Chappell noted. “We feel confident that the project will succeed, but the board of commissioners are obligated, first and foremost, to protect the citizens of Gates County.”

Chappell stressed that the grants for this project are not being requested for the exclusive benefit of Dr. Fisher.

“Activity breeds activity…this is being done in an effort to attract other businesses to spout their wings or relocate to this area of development,” Chappell concluded. “This project will serve as a magnet for other businesses.”