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Questions arise after grant fails to help fund senior center

GATESVILLE – The Gates County Aging and Adult Services Task Force would like some answers. DSS Director Ann Holley and Task Force Chairwoman Reba Green-Holley went before the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday with their concerns about a recent grant.

Efforts to create a county senior center have been underway for some time, and after a public hearing held in September they were hopeful about potentially receiving $100,000 from the NC Neighborhood Grant.

That grant application would also request money to rehabilitate four homes in the county. The maximum cap on requested funds was $750,000. A budget for what the money would be used for was submitted with the application. She also noted there was no requirement for matching funds from the county.

Green-Holley said that in December, they first learned the submitted application did not include the senior center funding request. She corresponded with County Manager Natalie Rountree who explained the grant consultant believed the application would have a better chance of being accepted if the senior center requested funds were not included.

“Conversations with Commissioner [Henry] Jordan indicate that they were not aware that the grant had been submitted without the senior center until after the fact,” Green-Holley said.

“When does the consultant’s decision get higher priority than the citizens of Gates County and the commissioners?” she continued. “As a grant consultant myself, I understand the role of grant consultant, and it is not to override the potential grantee’s request if it is allowable.”

In her statement, she also raised concerns about lack of communication and transparency. She asked that the Aging and Adult Services Task Force be informed in the future so they can work together with the county to improve everyone’s quality of life.

“The county is one of four without a senior center. It’s a shame that an opportunity such as the North Carolina Neighborhood Grant was presented to us to address our housing needs and it was not taken advantage of,” she said.

After the presentation, the commissioners discussed the issue with the Rountree. The County Manager stated they had just recently received approval for the grant and will be awarded the full $750,000 to demolish and rebuild the four homes in question for qualifying, low-income citizens. She said there would not be any money leftover from the grant, as it had all been budgeted for use when they submitted the application.

“That’s pretty close to $200,000 a home,” Commissioner Jordan noted, before asking if they could speak with the grant writer about possible options.

Rountree also said two homes needed septic tank issues fixed, which would increase their cost. The grant money would also be used to cover consultant fees, administration, and more dealing with the house rehabilitation project.

“These four houses had costs that far exceeded any of the other essential single-family rehab programs that we had,” she continued before requesting they table the issue to discuss when she had more information available.

Commissioner Jack Owens said he thought it would be a good idea to pursue an adjustment just to see if they’d be able to get any money for the senior center project. He apologized to Green-Holley for the communication errors.

Board Chair Linda Hofler said they would continue the discussion at the commissioners’ next meeting on January 23.

Before sitting back down, Green-Holley shared one last thought, saying, “It is the time to embrace the endless opportunities in front of us and work transparently and collaboratively to achieve the desires of the citizens on Gates County.”