FORT MILL — The committee working on an application for a Community Development Block Grant to improve the Paradise neighborhood is narrowing its list of potential projects and wants community residents to help decide the next step.
Another in a series of public meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at Jerusalem Baptist Church, 300 Steele St., Fort Mill.
Rob Moody of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, which was contracted by the town to put the application together, said the meeting will be used to recap the process to date and “gauge residents’ interest” in possible uses for the grant. The application that’s ultimately submitted has to detail how the grant money would be used. Officials have mentioned using the money, or at least some of it, on infrastructure, such as new water and sewer lines to provide better service.
“We’ll update the community on what the advisory committee has been doing and discuss improvements in the plan,” Moody said.
“We’ll [also] address the need for housing repair since we talked to some partners who may be in a position to address that and we’ll be there to gauge the residents’ interest in participating in a housing repair program.”
That program would be something implemented outside the CDBG and wouldn’t be financed by the grant, committee members said.
The sooner Moody and the committee can complete the plan, the sooner it can get it before the Fort Mill Town Council for approval. State officials will ultimately decide who gets the competitive grant. The goal, Moody said, is to pass the application on to the state for consideration sometime in October.
“We’d like to get it on the town agenda in September to get adopted,” he said.
In the Community Development Block Grant program, the federal government provides money to states to award local municipalities that propose various improvement projects. Fort Mill won $25,000 to put together its plan. The town contributed an extra $2,500 and contracted with the COG to guide the process. If Fort Mill wins the grant, it can mean up to half a million dollars for projects in the Paradise area.
Committee member Willie Culp said he expects a guest speaker from the faith-based community to provide information about a home improvement project in which residents would get assistance making needed repairs. But the grant, he said, could be used to help improve infrastructure.
“ If we get the grant,” Culp said.
It’s a phrase he emphasized several times.
“[Improving] vacant lots would be another – if we get the grant,” he said.
“And another sidewalk for Steele Street – if we get the grant,” Culp said again.
It’s a valid concern considering Fort Mill is competing with a number of municipalities, including some with a lower per-capita income, which state officials will consider along with other criteria.
According to the S.C. Dept. of Commerce, which administers the grants, municipalities that receive them must meet at least one of three objectives:
• Benefit low and moderate income residents
• Aid in the “prevention or elimination of slums and blighting conditions” and
• Meet “other urgent community development needs where existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to public health and welfare, and where other financial resources are not readily available to meet such needs.”
Recent grants awarded includes $499,994 to the City of Newberry for a sewer upgrade and other water project and $500,000 to the Town of Pageland for a sewer upgrade.
Committee members don’t want to under-sell the importance of getting stakeholders all on the same page.
“The biggest hurdle is getting the citizens of the community to understand the criteria of the Community Development Block Grant,” said Rufus Sanders, who grew up in Paradise.
“If awarded, it will benefit the community as a whole in correcting and enhancing areas in its infrastructure, such as water lines and storm drain issues, sidewalks, street lighting and some monies allocated to removal of abandoned buildings, just to name a few. Many residents prefer the grant award to aid in home improvements. This grant is not for personal home improvements,” Sanders said.
Sanders also wants to allay residents’ concerns that improvements made through the program will result in higher property taxes. Questions like that as well as others are reasons residents should attend the meeting next week, Moody said.