01/17/18 — County's speed of recovery grant use becomes an issue

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County's speed of recovery grant use becomes an issue

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 17, 2018 5:50 AM

Wayne County is operating at the "speed of the state and federal government" when it come to implementing the activities through its $16.94 million Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program.

And there is nothing that the county can do to speed up the process that includes a 25-page application for those seeking housing assistance, Wayne County Planner Chip Crumpler said.

The county is still waiting on documents to be returned by the state -- including the county-signed grant agreement and the contract with the company administering the grant -- before it can proceed.

"All of these items will be returned before we can take action implementing any of the programs," Crumpler told Wayne County commissioners at their Tuesday morning session. "So there are several things sitting at the state."

The Hurricane Matthew Housing Recovery Application Centers opened on Nov. 30 in Wayne, Cumberland, Robeson and Edgecombe counties -- the counties hardest hit by Matthew.

In addition to taking applications for all housing activities under the CDBG-DR project, intake counselors also determine eligibility for the federal Housing and Urban Development housing assistance.

The center was to have closed Monday, but will now remain open through Feb. 8. After that time, residents can still apply through RMS Harris Associates, the company the county has contracted with to manage the grant.

"These are not county employees (at the center)," County Manager Craig Honeycutt said. "This is a program run by the state. We are just providing them the space at the Veterans Service Center to allow for a more centralized location."

Residents need to be prepared to provide the needed documentation when they visit the center and then come back and see the lengthy process through, Crumpler said.

The county could be taking applications for two years from now if there is a need for it, he said.

"But also we have a lot of work ahead of us," Honeycutt said. "In January, we will begin working with the city of Goldsboro and the town of Mount Olive on the sub-grantee agreements that will be between the municipalities and the county. Goldsboro and Mount Olive will be responsible for implementing the activities directly benefiting their citizens.

"They will also be responsible for satisfying all of the HUD compliance requirement that apply to the expenditures of the grant or funds that they will receive from the county."

Honeycutt was referring to the $400,000 in the grant to place generators at emergency shelters in Mount Olive and Goldsboro. The grant also includes $2,858,558 for flood and drainage activities.

"We also will begin working with Goldsboro, Fremont and Pikeville regarding their stormwater drainage issues," Honeycutt said. "Pikeville and Fremont do not have the staff, so Chip and RMS Harris will do that work for them. We need additional information from them about exact location of drainage piping and households that will be affected before we can begin the environmental process.

"Then we will discuss any changes in the storm drainage needs that may have occurred since the grant was first proposed as well as any changes in the priorities in the storm drainage work that the municipalities may have deemed necessary."

Crumpler said he wanted to clarify comments made by local activist Charles Wright who earlier in the meeting spoke of the need of neighborhood revitalization projects for seven neighborhoods in the county.

Neighborhood revitalization is not part of the grant, Crumpler said.

"That would be very discriminatory program to open it to only seven identified neighborhoods," he said. "It is available to every person in the county. You have to be low-to-moderate income. You have to qualify.

"This is a housing specific grant, 80 percent of it anyway goes to low (income) housing. That is open to any citizen in the county and in any municipality in the county. You have to be low-to-moderate income and have to have a housing need."

Crumpler said those needs include single-family rehab; single-family reconstruction; mobile home repair; mobile home replacement; temporary rental assistance; housing repair reimbursement if the repairs are already made; and flood insurance assistance.

For rental properties there is a small rental rehab projects, he said.

The grant includes $8,831,442 for housing recovery with rehabilitation costs limited to $50,000 per unit.

Also part of this grant agreement is a community recovery activity identified in the resilience plan conducted by the state, Crumpler said.

"Those are the flood and drainage improvements Mr. Honeycutt referenced," he said. "We are already meeting with those jurisdictions on that for Goldsboro, Pikeville and Fremont."

It also includes $700,000 for a new fire station in Seven Springs. However, the Seven Springs Fire Department has obtained other funding for the new station freeing up the $700,000 in the grant to be used elsewhere, probably for housing, Crumpler said.