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Northampton hires consultant to assist with Lake Gaston project

JACKSON – With an approval by the Northampton Commissioners, a consultant will be working with the county in the next few months in order to secure state and federal grants for the project at Lake Gaston.

Franklin Williams, the county’s Economic Development Director, presented the contract to the commissioners at their meeting on July 7. That contract is with Robin Payne Consulting.

“The scope of her work will be to work along with our architects on the site plan, develop estimates, and also develop a master plan,” Williams explained. “Her specialty is writing grants, especially with parks, recreation, and tourism.”

The project on Lake Gaston has been in progress since the commissioners first purchased six acres of land on Edwards Beach Road in Henrico in Sept. 2019 at a cost of $300,000. The goal is to build a conference center on the site to provide access to county-sponsored recreation and wellness programs to citizens in the western end of the county.

According to conceptual architecture designs, the building will also be able to house satellite offices for some county departments, including the health department, sheriff’s office, and department of social services.

Earlier this year, the commissioners also approved the $285,000 purchase of a half-acre waterfront lot just south of the site where the conference center building will be constructed. The commissioners currently also have an option to purchase the three acres in between the two lots.

Williams explained at Wednesday’s meeting that Payne comes to the county highly recommended and is the “number one person” to consult with when trying to secure funding for parks and recreation grants. Williams noted that she has previously consulted for several local governments in eastern North Carolina, including Bertie County, to secure a variety of grant funding.

According to information submitted by Williams, Payne will work from July 2021 through December 2021. The contract is on a month-to-month basis and can be terminated by either party at any time.

The contract states that, upon acceptance, Payne will be paid $2,500 for preliminary research work that was performed in April and May. Then, beginning July 15, the county can choose between Option A ($2,500 monthly without grant writing) or Option B ($3,500 per month, which includes grant writing).

After Williams’ presentation, Board Chair Charles Tyner said the county was working to get the best people to help them out with this project, and emphasized as well that Payne was highly recommended.

“As you know in grant writing, you’ve got to have somebody with experience to get in there,” Tyner said, explaining the need for a consultant.

Williams agreed, stating, “we will eventually become self-sufficient but right now we need her expertise.”

Commissioner Nicole Boone motioned to approve the contract, and Commissioner Kelvin Edwards seconded. It passed unanimously, though Commissioner Geneva Faulkner was not present at the meeting to cast a vote.

Tyner has stated in previous meetings that the project will not mean an increase in taxes for Northampton citizens, and that it could bring more tourism revenue for the county.