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Greene County awarded $1M for Hurricane Matthew damage

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By BRENDA MONTY
The Standard Laconic

Friday, December 15, 2017

SNOW HILL — Greene County has been awarded $1 million from the N.C. Division of Emergency Management for disaster relief for low-moderate income residents affected by Hurricane Matthew.

The grant provides funds to rehabilitate 12 homes and replace two homes. The funds also provide temporary displacement assistance for four families, flood insurance assistance for five families and re-imbursement of documented homeowner repair expenses for one family. The program will also pay for repairs at the Greene County Senior Center in Snow Hill.

Mike Barnette of McDavid Associates, the county’s civil engineering firm administering the grant, gave an update earlier this month at the Greene County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The funding may be used for certain disaster recovery activities, and potentially qualified residents will be sought out through a variety of means, he said.

“We will have to go and find the folks to fill these slots. The slots may change; the activity may change,” Barnette said.

Barnette requested the board officially accept the award, authorize the county finance officer and county manager to budget the capitol grant project and authorize the county manager to award and contract project management services.

Commissioner Susan Blizzard questioned Barnette concerning details of the grant application, which the commissioners were asked Oct. 16 to approve, because the final application was not ready and the deadline was Oct. 20.

Blizzard was not happy to learn “small rental repair at scattered sites throughout Greene County” were not included in the application.

She went back and forth with Barnette regarding their understanding of the matter. Based on minutes of the Oct. 2 and Oct. 16 grant application public hearings, Blizzard specifically asked about rental property repairs. Barnette told her on Oct. 2 and Rich Moore of McDavid Associates told her on Oct. 16 the rental repairs would be included in the application.

“I have worked with housing programs in Greene County since the ’80s, and the direction of the board has historically been owner-occupied. That is where I came up with that recommendation,” Barnette said.

Rental property repairs are important, because the lack of rental property to accommodate flood victims was an issue following Hurricane Matthew, Blizzard said.

Barnette said he could ask the Division of Emergency Management to adjust the grant budget to include rental property if that is what the commissioners wanted to do.

Blizzard also questioned the $75,000 budgeted for repairs to the senior center, which included $20,000 for a new roof, $28,000 exterior waterproofing, $14,500 to replace damaged exterior material, replace damaged interior components and $7,500 for technical services.

The application states “the senior council owns and maintains the center,” Blizzard pointed out and Barnette agreed it was an incorrect statement. The county owns the senior center.

Blizzard questioned the county taking advantage of grant funding since the county has insurance that covers wind and flood damage on its buildings.

“I’m not questioning whether the senior center should be repaired or not. But why didn’t the insurance company pay for these repairs at the time of the hurricane instead of putting it on a grant intended for disaster recovery for the citizens of Greene County?” she asked.

The senior center was included in the grant application to make it more competitive, Barnette explained

“In preparing one of these applications, you never know who you are competing against. … The reason for putting the senior center as an activity in with the housing was to create multiple activities, which I felt would make the application rate higher in the competition,” Barnette said.

Blizzard’s concern centered on the county benefiting from funding for what could possibly be a case of neglect of one of its own buildings, she said.

“If the senior center was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in these areas, I fully support putting it on this application,” Blizzard said. “But if the senior center was damaged by neglect, by the things our county has not done to properly repair the senior center … because I understand there were three other activities that occurred after October 2016 and pre-existing conditions that occurred before 2016.”

County Manager Kyle DeHaven said, “There was damage to the senior center during Hurricane Matthew. If the damage to the senior center did result from Hurricane Matthew, it certainly wasn’t the first time and it certainly hasn’t been the last time. So, if we qualify for a program to fix the building and its issues, I think we would be wise to take advantage of it.”

To confirm DeHaven’s statement, Blizzard asked, “So, the $75,000 we’ve applied for is a direct result of Hurricane Matthew?”

DeHaven said, “The senior center was damaged in Hurricane Matthew.”

The $75,000 figure was a number he “pulled out of the air to be a placeholder for an activity,” Barnette said.

Blizzard was still not satisfied by the answer.

Commissioners who have questions should meet with Barnette on their own time instead of taking the board’s time at meetings, said vice chairman James Shackleford.

Commissioner Jerry Jones made the motion to accept the grant award, authorize the chairman Bennie Heath to sign the agreement, authorize the county finance officer to budget the grant as a capital grant project and authorize DeHaven to award and contract project management services. Shackleford seconded the motion, which passed 4-1 with Blizzard opposed.

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