City partners with Rowan Helping Ministries to establish donation-driven utilities assistance program

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, October 21, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The city established on Tuesday a partnership with Rowan Helping Ministries to provide financial assistance to locals struggling to make their water and sewer payments.

The “Share 2 Care” water and sewer assistance fund will be donation-driven and disbursed through Rowan Helping Ministries once donations reach $1,000. It was born out of concern from city council members after they rescinded Salisbury’s moratorium on utility disconnections on Aug. 5 due to outstanding balances continuing to rise.

Executive Order 142, established by Gov. Roy Cooper, prevented municipalities from executing utility disconnections and charging late fees or penalties for nonpayment due to the pandemic. That order expired on July 29, but municipalities are required to allow customers at least six months to pay off any outstanding balances accrued from March through July.

However, the program is not limited to only those who have been impacted by the pandemic, according to Salisbury Communications Director Linda McElroy.

November utility bills will include inserts calling for donations from the local community, said Salisbury Finance Director Shannon Moore at Tuesday’s Salisbury City Council meeting.

Rowan Helping Ministries currently has a crisis fund and contributes to locals’ utility bills. “Share 2 Care” would serve as another resource. The city will rely on RHM to determine eligibility based on criteria already in place for financial assistance, but the account holders must be financially impacted by COVID-19.

Since 2000, Rowan Helping Ministries has used public and private funding to provide more than $15 million in crisis assistance, with almost $900,000 specifically for water and utilities payments assistance, according to a presentation to city council members on Tuesday.

Just this month, Rowan Helping Ministries has paid around $7,500 in utilities assistance, said Executive Director Kyna Grubb.

Grubb referenced another resource — a $427,000 grant from the state’s N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions, or HOPE program, which provides assistance for eligible low- and- moderate-income renters experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic.

Grubb said as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 139 applications from locals are currently “in queue” for assistance from the HOPE program. But based on the average costs among families, Rowan Helping Ministries anticipates it can assist around 83 families.

Council member David Post added to the motion to establish the “Share 2 Care” fund by asking city staff to explore the idea of partnering with local philanthropist Ronnie Smith, who is involved with a program called “Friends of Rowan,” where he matches donations to the Rowan Helping Ministries. City attorney Graham Corriher said it was something city staff could look into and bring to council if needed.

All council members expressed gratitude for the work conducted by city staff and Rowan Helping Ministries to put together the “Share 2 Care” fund. Council member Tamara Sheffield said “this shows what our community is about.”

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins said Rowan Helping Ministries “has been a blessing for our community.”

Council members also scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 3 regarding an incentive request from “Project Hero.” The company behind “Project Hero” is an existing employer in Salisbury that plans to retain the current level of employment and add 30 new full-time jobs over the next four years. The company estimates it will invest approximately $1.5 million in new construction and equipment.

Council members voted to change the Nov. 3 meeting time to 5 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. It will be held virtually, but council members expressed concern with turnout on Election Day.

Also at the meeting:

• Council members appointed Kristin Dillard, the president of Team Auto Group, to the Rowan Economic Development Commission. One of the city’s two appointments is scheduled to expire Dec. 31. The current appointee has served two terms and is no longer eligible to serve on the commission.

• Council members authorized the upset bid process for the sale of parcel 025-013, located in the 1000 block of Barbour Street. The parcel is jointly owned by the city of Salisbury and Rowan County. It is 7,495 square feet and has an assessed tax value of $8,000. There is currently a bid from Robert Polk to purchase the parcel for $1,200.

Polk is required to submit a bid deposit of 5% of the offer to the city and/or the county. The offer will be published for 10 days, and during this period, upset bids may be submitted. An upset bid must raise the current offer by at least 10% of the first $1,000 of that offer and 5% of the remainder. If the bid is raised, the new bid becomes the current offer, and the city and county will conduct another upset bid, using the same procedure. This process will continue until a 10-day period passes without receipt of a qualifying upset bid. Both governing boards will receive notice of the final offer and may at that time reject or accept the offer.

• Council members approved a right-of-way encroachment by TEP Fiber for the installation of directional bored duct on West Monroe and South Craige streets per section 11-24 (27) of the City Code. They also approved a right-of-way encroachment by Hotwire Communication for the installation of directional bored duct on Spruce Drive. There are no budgetary impacts with either of these items.

• City council awarded Lt. Greg Beam his sidearm and badge in recognition of his retirement from the Salisbury Police Department on May 1.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated the “Share 2 Care” program was for locals impacted by the pandemic. It has been updated to clarify that the program can help locals who aren’t impacted by the pandemic as well.