Additional mitigation funds requested

Published 10:40 am Monday, November 6, 2017

KELFORD – With a second public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) grant Bertie County is expected to receive, held at the Bertie County Commissioners meeting here Oct. 16, the Board heard about the qualifications necessary for the latest round of mitigation funds.

The CDBG-DR grant comes from federal funding earmarked to assist with state and local disaster relief for Hurricane Matthew and those who suffered losses following the October 2016 storm.

On hand to conduct the hearing as well as providing updates on not just the CDBG-DR grant, but other Matthew-related rehabilitation assistance projects was Chris Hilbert, from Holland Consulting, who’s been the county’s point man on several pending projects.

“CDBG-DR is kind of the last piece of the puzzle,” Hilbert said. “It’s considered last resort.”

According to Hilbert, it’s for properties damaged during last year’s flooding that do not qualify for other programs.

He said the town of Windsor has signed the final application for the $6 million buyout for elevations and bigger projects.

“In that project, once they figured out the budget, it ended up being 34 acquisitions and 11 elevations,” Hilbert explained. “So, some of those properties that were submitted ended up getting left out within the budget. That doesn’t mean they can’t still be done, it’s just those are the priority ones.”

Hilbert said there are 45 ‘priority’ properties that have been selected.

“That ends up being your $6 million – so far,” he noted.

In September, he said an application was submitted under the county for $1 million that was supposed to cover 17 low-to-moderate income homes not covered under the $6 million. But the maximum that could be spent on each property would be $50,000.

“What we’ve done now is look at the houses that weren’t getting assistance through the buyout and through the elevation, and we’re kind of coming back into the low-income people making sure they get into that 17 houses, or the CDBG project,” he said. “We want to get as many houses as we can.”

Hilbert added there’s been a change in the budget from what was originally called for.

“We’re calling for rehabilitation funds of $325,000, construction funds of $325,000 for reconstruction, community facilities of $90,000, and administration funds of $37,500,” he remarked. “So that’ll be a total application of $777,500.

Hilbert said the reconstruction is to try to replace two homes that are the worse situation that are not in the buyout and elevation project.

“We can spend over $100,000 replacing those homes under CDBG as long as they’re income eligible,” he stated. “And no other program can do that.”

Commissioner Tammy Lee inquired if these homes could be in the flood plain and Hilbert said they could.

“We could replace them, or build them up, depending on what the local ordinance is,” he answered. “However, it’s not required.”

“Some of the properties on the list were left out because of lack of funding, but some still may be done,” he added.

He said three or four rehabilitations – with a couple of those having suffered substantial damage (at a maximum of $75,000) – that did not earlier qualify for the mitigation program could still be elevated or rehabilitated.

“These are the people who’ve kind of fallen through the cracks,” he noted. “Maybe they weren’t the highest priority units in the acquisition-elevation program that kind of fell out, but they’re low income-eligible and they have severe housing needs.”

Commissioner John Trent asked for a determination of priority and income-eligibility.

“Highest priority, based on the Board’s having met back in June, established it as flood elevation in people’s homes,” Hilbert explained. “So, if you had four-or-five feet of water in your home, you’re a higher priority than someone who only had one foot of water.

“Income eligibility is 80 percent of the median income for the county, and that’s based on household size and might be adjusted depending on how many people you had in your household,” he added.

Hilbert said some of the people had been recommended by County Manager Scott Sauer because they did not immediately fit directly into a specific category; perhaps from issues that disqualified them from some of the other mitigation programs.

Hilbert said $90,000 of the grant has been set up to help Bertie County with the lease on the library over a three-year period.

“We feel that’s an eligible activity because the library benefits the entire county, and the entire county is over 50 percent low-to-moderate income,” he acknowledged.

Commissioner Ron Wesson wanted an explanation for why a constituent in his district, who operated a business – a hair salon – out of their home in an attached dwelling, that qualified under Hurricane Floyd back in 1999 did not qualify under the 2016-17 mitigation program.

“She said before that she got loans, not grants; and this time they told her she didn’t even qualify for loans. Why would there be two different stories,” Wesson wondered.

Hilbert said one possible answer is that the state has more applications that there is funding.

“I think the state is going through these with a fine-toothed comb and that might be why someone was eligible then, but might not be now,” he stated. “Another explanation might just be the priority. We look at it now as more of a commercial business than a residential.”

Hilbert closed by requesting a resolution, signed by Chairman Trent, to approve the signatures on the documents for the grant.

“That’s because this is federal money,” Hilbert said.

The public hearing then ended. Lee delivered a motion to sign the application for the CDBG-DR grant, seconded by Commissioner Stewart White, and it was unanimously approved by a 5-0 vote.