Consultant may get $12,000 to aid city

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

Sometimes it takes money to make money, which is the idea behind a plan by Mount Airy officials to enlist a consulting firm’s help in seeking federal funding for much-needed water-sewer improvements.

That firm, Martin-McGill Inc. of Asheville, could be paid a total of $12,000 by the city in its effort to secure a $2 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The grant will be the subject of a public hearing during a meeting of the city Board of Commissioners Thursday night.

If the application for infrastructure development is approved, the money will be used to replace aging water and sewer lines in Maple Street-Merritt Street area, a mostly residential neighborhood several blocks from downtown.

This represents Mount Airy’s second attempt for the CDBG funding — after filing an unsuccessful application last year — with the city ratcheting up its approach in hopes of being successful this time around.

“This is a federal grant and is very competitive,” City Manager Barbara Jones explained. “After not making the first round, we reviewed areas that we needed to work on for a successful application.”

The Martin-McGill consulting firm, which provides services to local government units and businesses, subsequently entered the picture.

“As part of that,” Jones added of the regrouping process, “we found that Martin-McGill had worked with other communities that had been funded, so we talked with them about assisting the city with needed information that will meet federal guidelines for the application.”

Mount Airy officials are now poised to take the rare step of seeking grant-filing assistance from an outside entity — a task that up to now has been handled in-house by Martin Collins, the city’s community-development coordinator.

“Martin Collins will be the lead staff member on this end, working with (the firm) providing a lot of the technical information,” Jones mentioned.

Cost breakdown

A two-part fee structure totaling $12,000 is in place for the consulting firm’s services.

That includes a $5,500 charge for the application assistance, with income surveys also recommended to make the application as competitive as possible for scoring, according to Jones. If the city uses the firm for that portion of the process, there will be an additional fee of $6,500.

Preference for CDBG funding is given to communities with large percentages of low-income citizens. Nearly 70 percent of residents in the Maple Street-Merritt Street project area are low-and moderate-income individuals as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development based on 2014 data.

Even if Mount Airy pays the full fee to Martin-McGill Inc., the city manager suggests it will be money well-spent if a successful application results.

“The total cost could be $12,000 for the potential of a $2 million grant for infrastructure needs,” Jones pointed out. “We are working very hard to bring $2 million to the community for much-needed infrastructure improvements.”

The Maple Street-Merritt Street area ranks number one on a priority list for long-range water-sewer rehabilitation projects aimed at addressing older utility lines in town, which calls for $5.6 million to be spent over a 10-year period.

Citizens can comment on the CDBG application during Thursday’s public hearing that will be part of a commissioners meeting to begin at 7 p.m.

The commissioners will consider approving the submitting of the application later in the meeting.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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