Help to Flint Hill could be hurt by General Assembly

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 04:41 PM

A grant won and accepted by the City of Henderson could lead to funding a training and organization plan for half a million dollars in Flint Hill neighborhood improvements.

But actions in Raleigh at the General Assembly with the state budget could nix the deal.

The city has accepted a $50,000 grant from the state for a Community Development Block Grant award to fund a Talent Enhancement Capacity program.

The yearlong program lays a foundation for other community block grant opportunities city leaders desired. The pursuit was slowed upon learning grant authorities required detailed community organizing and city staff training to first take place.

With approval by the city council this past week, $25,000 of the grant will be applied to the salary of Erris Dunston, the city planning director. Dunston’s salary remains the same, and the $25,000 the city would have been paying was redirected to establishment of an operational fund for helping the Flint Hill community organize properly in preparation for future revitalization.

The rest of the talent enhancement fund will go toward developing a community plan, training and transportation costs for Dunston so she can assume more of a leadership role in helping organize the Flint Hill community.

She is also expected to learn and apply new grant writing techniques.

However, if the General Assembly approves a budget plan eliminating the Catalyst Grant program, the community block grant will be history before it starts.

City Manager Ray Griffin said all the city can do is follow the plan that was offered and hope for the best. The $25,000 transfer by the city as a small Flint Hill fund is a little bit of planning for the worst in the meantime.

“The legislature may not fund the catalyst grant,” Griffin said. “It so far is not part of the Senate budget, neither of the legislative budgets. It could come back as part of the reconciliation process.”

There are also other grant programs possible. Griffin hopes there will be steps forward for the city to take in linking up to some form of development help from the state.

“That is what we are hoping to do,” he said. “The talent enhancement work would bear fruit within the next 12 to 18 months.”

The option of utilizing Dunston as the focus of how the $50,000 grant would be spent arose after city leaders sought an outside contractor option. For instance, they sought the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments but learned grant authorities did not permit that option.

Dunston told council members on Monday she looked forward to the training and organizational involvement.

“We are looking into changing the budget from hiring from outside to developing a plan in-house,” Dunston said.

The council approved unanimously a motion to accept the grant and create the official grant budget, which is to be kept on account until the grant has been fulfilled and an official closeout process is completed to certify that all expenditures were properly applied.

In other recent business:

• Council members requested Vance County tax collectors to form more aggressive policies for tax collections.

• The council released the city’s joint ownership of the property at 701 East Avenue to Vance County because of expressed interest by a private party to purchase it.

• A statement of support for the Triangle North board of directors by the council encourages more aggressive marketing for industrial development.

• Members also approved a consent agenda for a Henderson police grant application as prepared, a declaration to end voluntary conservation of Kerr Lake water and acceptance of a Vance County tax release and refund list for April.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.