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CDBG choices numerous

JACKSON – A public hearing on the general topic of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) was held during the Northampton County Board of Commissioners regular meeting here Monday.

Gary Brown, the county’s Economic Development Director, presented information about different kinds of CDBG programs to the Commissioners. He explained the purpose of the public hearing was to provide notice that the county could potentially participate in the CDBG program this year and to discuss the different possibilities for applications.

“The primary objective of the CDBG program is to develop viable communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for persons of low- and moderate-income,” Brown began as an overview to the topic.

North Carolina’s CDBG program falls into three categories: Infrastructure (CDBG-I), Economic Development (CDBG-ED), and Neighborhood Revitalization (CDBG-NR).

The Infrastructure category is only eligible for certain specific projects, Brown noted. These projects can include resolving failed infrastructure on private septic tanks or public contaminated wells, replacing or repairing public sewer lines greater than 40 years old and wastewater treatment equipment greater than 20 years old, extending water and/or sewer lines to new low-moderate income housing, and connecting public water/sewer lines to existing low-moderate income housing.

Brown mentioned he had been working with the Public Works department for over a year to find qualifying CDBG-I projects in the county but hadn’t yet been successful.

According to Brown, the CDBG-ED program “is designed to benefit low- and moderate-income persons through job creation, and funding eligibility is contingent upon the creation of permanent, full-time jobs.”

A majority of those jobs must be available for low-income persons, he also stated. CDBG-ED awards are capped at $1 million per project. Brown said they would need qualifying projects to apply for this particular CDBG program.

“We don’t have any qualifying economic development projects currently that would necessitate an application for CDBG (ED) funding,” he said.

Neighborhood Revitalization is a new category for 2018, which Brown explained the state added in response to ending the Scattered Site Housing Program in 2012. Funds for that type of grant are used towards rehabilitating or replacing housing.

“Counties and municipalities are limited to a maximum cumulative CDBG grant participation of $1.25 million during any calendar year,” he concluded, noting that total can be spread amongst the three categories if necessary.

Only one citizen spoke in public comment. Helen Varnado explained she was against coal ash in Northampton County and asked if that particular industry was eligible to receive these kinds of grant funding.

County attorney Scott McKellar answered that he didn’t think they were eligible, but he would research the matter further.

Though the citizen comment portion of the public hearing was short, the commissioners conducted more discussion on the topic.

“How has this money been used in the past in Northampton County,” questioned Commissioner Charles Tyner.

Brown explained the county hadn’t received any CDBG funding in the last year, but he mentioned a couple different projects which had been completed in the past couple of years including, constructing the Clements Mechanical facility and the Enviva Pellet facility outside of Garysburg.

Tyner also asked what the plans were for the CDBG application. Brown answered that his office had been working on a potential Neighborhood Revitalization project they could apply for.

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner asked when applications were due, and Brown answered September 28. Faulkner expressed some concerns about getting potential applications done before that upcoming date.

Before the public hearing closed, Commissioner Fannie Greene asked about the differences between the previous Scattered Site Housing program and the new Neighborhood Revitalization program. The two programs are essentially the same, Brown answered.

Following the general public hearing, Brown’s second order of business was to schedule another public hearing for the previously mentioned Neighborhood Revitalization project his office had been working on.

After a unanimous vote from the Commissioners, that hearing is scheduled for September 17 at 6:05 p.m. during the Commissioners’ regular meeting.

Tyner stated a concern about the time frame, worried that it wouldn’t be enough time to get enough information about the project to vote on it. He also said he would prefer pursuing a grant which would help with water infrastructure instead.

From the ensuing discussion about what projects to apply for, County Manager Kimberly Turner requested Brown bring information about other potential CDBG projects to the next Commissioner meeting scheduled for September 5.

Brown confirmed he would.