‘Golden’ Gifts

Published 12:09 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WINDSOR – The weather may have been naughty, but the money is nice.

With Bertie County and the Town of Windsor still in recovery mode from two major flooding events in September and October of last year, a trio of early Christmas presents helped to lift holiday spirits last week.

Last week’s announcement of $2.75 million in Golden Leaf Foundation funds will be used to help construct a joint facility to serve Bertie County Cooperative Extension and a library, both flooded last year by back-to-back tropical systems.

Thursday, the Golden LEAF Foundation’s Board of Directors approval of additional disaster recovery funds in the amount of $2,750,000 for the library and cooperative extension joint use facility, $240,000 for the Teacher Housing Initiative, and receive $311,720 to replace a Windsor pump station damaged by flooding.

Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer said the initial communication of this announcement came in a telephone call to Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Ron Wesson, who shared the news at Thursday’s employee appreciation luncheon, noting “this is a great day for Bertie County.”

At its meeting on Dec. 7 the Golden LEAF Foundation allocated a total of $14,347,101 in Disaster Recovery Program funding for 22 applications with appropriations from the NC General Assembly following last year’s hurricane and tropical storms.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Ernestine Bazemore was excited to hear the announcement, and quickly noted that “Bertie County’s leadership has worked very hard to seek support for our citizens since the first flood waters hit in September 2016.”

Bertie County Commissioners and Windsor Town officials met during the initial recovery period to develop a united strategy to appeal to both federal and state leaders on behalf of families and businesses impacted by Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Julia.

“In May our leadership team met with Golden LEAF Foundation officials to seek support for replacement of the library, cooperative extension offices, EMS Station One and funding for university support to study these worsening flood events impacting Windsor and Bertie County,” noted Bazemore.

The meeting occurred at the Bertie Early College campus with Golden LEAF Executive Director Dan Gerlach and his staff, where local officials outlined the priorities for unmet needs which were not addressed fully by FEMA.

“(Windsor) Mayor Jim Hoggard, Commissioner Tammy Lee, Commissioner Ron Wesson and I spent nearly two hours with Golden LEAF officials pressing hard and advocating for disaster recovery funding,” explained Bazemore, adding, “we have continued this effort working together to pursue every dollar from federal and state sources to assist our citizens.”

Meanwhile, the $311,720 in Golden Leaf funding will be used to make improvements to the Windsor Rescue Pump Station which has been flooded and repaired with each of the last major storms.

“The current station located at Livermon Park & Zoo (Granville & York Streets) is usually the first one to go under when we have flooding because of its location closest to the Cashie River,” said Windsor Town Administrator Allen Castelloe, noting that this particular pump station handles the waste from the main part of town.

“Its critically important for us to make these renovations to protect the flooding vulnerability of the town. We hope to transform it from an above ground unit to a submersible with these major renovations,” he added.

Castelloe is scheduled to attend the Golden Leaf “school” in Rocky Mount on Dec. 19, a requirement of the organization of all of their grant recipients.

As far as the timetable to perform the work at the pump station, Castelloe anticipates it will take about nine months to completion from taking bids to the finish.

“We hope we can start in the spring or summer of 2018,” he said. “This is just one more step to improving the ability to making our community more resilient to these types of disasters.”

In June, the Golden LEAF Foundation approved the first two grants for Bertie County, including $72,707 to study the Cashie River Drainage Basin through a research project with NC State University; and a $500,000 grant to support planning, engineering and design of a joint use facility for co-location of the public library and cooperative extension offices.

In August, the Board of Commissioners approved a contract to purchase 2.9 acres at the intersection of Sterlingworth and Camden Streets for this facility. And in October, the Board of Commissioners approved a design team engagement with MHAworks, an architectural firm from Greenville to lead this effort. Meanwhile, the library has found a temporary home in the Windsor  Square Shopping Center.

Since late September of last year, Windsor and Bertie County Boards of Commissioners have spent countless hours seeking disaster recovery funding from state and federal legislators as they sought to rebuild facilities as well as properly planning for future flood events.

“We have momentum, enthusiasm and a lot of positive energy pushing the recovery process for Bertie County and the Town of Windsor,” stated Bazemore. “I am grateful to our staff and everyone involved who work so hard to make this success continue for our community.”

Additionally, the county has previously received a $300,000 state grant coupled with $284,299 in FEMA funds to assist in replacing EMS Station One that was severely flooded at its downtown Windsor location during Mother Nature’s one-two punch 14 months ago. That station has been operating at a temporary location since the floodwaters rose last year.