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Due to error, more business could receive funding from small business grant program

SALISBURY — Although Rowan County’s small business grant program concluded last week, the Board of Commissioners at its meeting Monday announced 16 applications that “slipped through the cracks” will be reviewed for eligibility.

“Building this from the bottom up for the first time, we lost 16 applications,” Chairman Greg Edds said. “We are working through that now with our contract consultant. We are working with those 16 applicants right now to determine which of those will qualify.”

Those 16 applications were turned in before the application deadline passed on Dec. 4, but due to an undetermined error they were not reviewed and vetted.

To remedy the problem, commissioners approved an addendum to the current small business grant program that will allow McGill Associates, the firm contracted to administer the program, to review and process the 16 applications using the existing eligibility requirements. 

After commissioners approved the addendum, an email was sent to McGill Associates notifying the firm of the 16 applications that were lost. McGill will contact each applicant individually and the applicants will have until Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. to provide McGill with any additional information needed. Checks to eligible applicants will be issued no later than Feb. 4.

The small business grant program was originally scheduled to be finished before the end of December since the federal government required money from the coronavirus relief fund to be spent before 2021. However, the federal government has since extended that deadline through the end of 2021, which will allow the county to continue to allocate funds from the CRF.

“We’re thankful that happened so we can go back and take a look at these,” Edds said.

Previously, the county distributed $307,000 to 77 eligible businesses through the grant program, but that number is likely to increase once the 16 lost applications are reviewed. The county allocated $350,000 for the program initially.

More information regarding the program can be found by contacting Rowan County Aaron Church at 704-216-8180.

Public comment on human services consolidation

Commissioners also held a public hearing regarding its proposal to consolidate the Health Department and Department of Veterans Services under the purview of the human services director, a newly created position that would report directly to the county manager. The Board of Health, which currently oversees the Health Department, would continue to advise commissioners and the county manager on health related matters.

During the public hearing, former Health Board member Dan Mikkelson spoke in opposition to the proposed change in structure.

“I’m here today to caution the commissioners of changing the structure of the current system, especially during the pandemic,” Mikkelson said.

Mikkelson complimented commissioners for allocating funds to fill vacancies in the environmental health department, which has in turn cut down on the backlog of soil and septic inspections requested by developers. 

The backlog, which had ballooned to about 10 weeks, was one reason why commissioners began pondering a consolidation of human services to begin with. Rowan County Environmental Health Supervisor Adrian Pruett reported during the meeting that the current wait time has been reduced to around three weeks for inspections.

Mikkelson also said that he commended the Board of Health for taking measures to improve communication with the commissioners, which has also been a cause of concern for them.

Mikkelson pointed to the solution of those problems as a reason why the consolidation does not need to happen.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Mikkelson said. “You’ve already fixed what was broken so you can stop fixing things while you’re still ahead.”

Mikkelson said that he could not see how consolidating Veterans Services with the Health Department would help Health Director Nina Oliver oversee the upcoming distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

After Mikkelson delivered his comments, Commissioner Mike Caskey said that under the proposed plan, the Health Department and Department of Veterans Services would report to the same person, but would technically not be combined.

Commissioners did not take any action after the public hearing, but will likely do so at a meeting later this month.

In other meeting business:

• Commissioners approved a request from Rowan Clearing Partners for the rezoning of a parcel of land on the 8200 block of Statesville Boulevard from rural residential to commercial, business and industrial. The commissioners did include a condition that the landowner would have to put a line of trees along the property line to shield the property from neighbors. Gupton Land Clearing will locate its company office, a workshop and storage area on the property.

• Commissioners approved awarding a bid to J.D. Goodrum, a Cornelius-based general contractor, for the construction phase of a glideslope replacement project at the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport. The project was approved and a grant was awarded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation in 2018. The project will cost $491,001.28.

• Commissioners approved the coronavirus relief fund expenditure report that will be filed with the state. Rowan County will allocate all $5.3 million that it received from the federal government.

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