Lea: Board Sending 'Mixed Message' on Grants
On a 4-1 vote the Moore County Board of Commissioners said no Tuesday to a proposed application for an additional transportation services grant.
The vote came at the conclusion of a public hearing called to consider a $160,018 grant application to the public transportation division of the N.C. Department of Transportation. The TTAP (Targeted Transit Assistance Program) grant is federal money channeled to local governments through NCDOT.
If approved, the grant would have enabled Moore County Transportation Services to add a vehicle to its 25-unit fleet and expand services to eligible residents, including the elderly, disabled and needy.
“We all pay taxes to the state and federal governments. It’s a never ending cycle. We are all going to pay for it,” said Commissioner Larry Caddell.
It was Commissioner Jimmy Melton who made the motion not to proceed with the application because additional information is needed.
Commissioner Craig Kennedy agreed, saying that he needs “hard numbers” to examine before approving the application.
However, Commissioner Tim Lea, who cast the dissenting vote, argued that the county was turning down an opportunity to help those in need at a time when jobs are scarce and people are losing their homes.
“I think we have a lot of people in dire straits,” said Lea, who made a substitute motion to fund the program for one year, then to reassess it at the end of that year. The motion died for lack of a second.
“We are providing service. There are a lot of vehicles already, and we need to look at the efficiency of the program the way it is now,” said Melton, adding his opinion that MCTS already has enough facilities.
Tawanna Williams, MCTS manager, said her agency has a waiting list of about 100 people who qualify for the local transportation service. She said the grant would enable MCTS to extend service to many of those on the waiting list. Williams added that NCDOT had recommended the program because of cuts in other funding programs.
But it was the opinion of four commissioners that the county needs to send a message to state and federal governments that it is time to curtail spending.
“This is one of those situations where the government has a good idea, then if it is continued, we have to pay for it,” said Chairman Nick Picerno.
The issue of accepting federal/state funds turned fractious later in the meeting when Lea reminded the other four commissioners that community development block grants are little different from the grant rejected for transportation services.
“If we’re going to make a statement, we should reject them all,” Lea said when the board was asked to execute documents needed for acceptance of a $500,000 economic recovery program CDBG offered by the N.C. Department of Commerce, Division of Community Investment and Assistance.
This grant, to be administered by the county’s Department of Planning and Community Development, provides funding for housing rehabilitation for owner-occupied low and/or moderate income families in Moore County.
Tim Emmert, county community development planner, reported that eight qualifying homeowners had been selected for assistance and another three have been identified as potential alternates. He said they were selected from more than 200 persons seeking housing rehabilitation assistance. The grant does not require a local match.
Kennedy argued that this particular program is a one-time program without ongoing expense on the county’s part.
But Lea said the same people and the same governments are involved in both grants.
“The board is sending a mixed message,” Lea said. “I just want to make this clarification.”
“My problem is the government itself. This isn’t free money,” said Picerno.
When the vote was called, Picerno and Caddell voted against the application, but the motion by Kennedy passed with assistance from Melton and Lea.
And Picerno cast the dissenting vote on another block grant matter, this one a request to approve a loan modification agreement for work performed on one housing unit covered by the 2009 Scattered Site Housing Community Development Block Grant.
The agreement change, as approved, raises the loan from $48,885 to $51,485.
Emmert explained that the request applies to one housing unit where additional septic system work is needed. The change does not require a local match.
Votes were unanimous on three other block grant matters as follows:
-- Contract extension until Dec. 31 with Northern Moore Family Resource Center pertaining to the $75,000 Capacity Building CDBG from the N.C. Department of Commerce. The extension allows the partnership (the center and the county) to apply funds remaining in the original grant to the salary of a housing program coordinator. The grant requires a local match of $20,000, but the the center agreed to secure contributions from the community and nonprofits to fund half of that amount.
-- Tabled an amendment to the engineering contract with Hobbs Upchurch & Associates on the $600,000 Urgent Needs CDBG for construction of a culvert in the private River Bend subdivision. The amendment moves one $9,000 line item to another line item.
-- Four bid awards approved for housing rehabilitation contracts under the 2009 Scattered Site Housing CDBG. No local match is required.
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