City plans to use federal HUD grant for rent and utility assistance, homelessness prevention, but still open for public input
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Following recommendations from staff, the city plans to use a $200,000 federal grant for public services, homelessness prevention, rent and utility assistance and small business assistance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 2, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, announced an allocation of $168,950 in CARES Act Community Development Block Grant funding to Salisbury. And on June 2, council members adopted an amendment to the city’s 2019-20 action plan, which committed 100% of those funds to public service agencies that assist low-income individuals and families impacted by COVID-19.
After a call for applications, city council members endorsed a handful of local public service agencies to receive the funding including Rowan Helping Ministries, Family Crisis Council, Community Care Clinic, Gateway Freedom Center, One Love Community Services, Inc., Salisbury Community Development Corporation, Gemstones and COMPASS Leadership Academy, Hood Theological Seminary, The Power Cross and Meals on Wheels.
City staff have been working with those agencies to sign appropriate contracts, submit reimbursement requests and appropriately track their activities needed for HUD reporting, according to a memo from Salisbury Planning Director Hannah Jacobson. There is a remaining balance of $34,834 that can still be distributed to public service agencies.
The city of Salisbury is now eligible for a second allocation of $200,221 for the CDBG program, which is provided via the federal CARES Act. The funding is to be used for preventing, preparing for and responding to the pandemic. Such uses include public service agencies, housing activities, planning, economic development and infrastructure.
Salisbury Housing Planner Candace Edwards on Tuesday presented city council members with a tentative 2020-21 fiscal year action plan that outlines a budget for the additional funds.
Based on a public hearing held on Dec. 1 and public comments received as of Dec. 25, city staff recommends $50,055 be used for public services in addition to the $34,834 still available, $75,000 for rent and utility assistance, $10,000 for emergency sewer lateral repair assistance, $40,000 for a homeless prevention strategy and $60,000 for small business assistance.
Locals can still provide input on use of the funds until Jan. 12. Copies of the action plan and budget can be found by visiting salisburync.gov/Government/Community-Planning-Services/Housing-and-Neighborhoods. Locals can request a hard copy or submit comments via email@example.com or call 704-638-5324.
After receiving those comments, council members will be asked to adopt the action plan at its Jan. 19 meeting so that it can be submitted to HUD for approval.
In public comments received prior to the Tuesday meeting, Kyna Grubb, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries, told Edwards that about $1.3 million has been used to help more than 400 families with the state’s Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions, or HOPE, program.
But outside of the HOPE program, Rowan Helping Ministries is receiving about 100 applications from Rowan County residents seeking financial assistance for rent and utilities. Months ago, the city established a Share 2 Care donation-driven program to assist locals with such payments. As of early December, about 58 families have been assisted with the program.
Edwards said rent and utilities assistance will be even more important for the community as the demand for such assistance will grow with the lapse of the CDC and federal evictions moratorium.
Allocating $10,000 for emergency sewer lateral repair assistance is something that helps low-income individuals and families, Edwards told council members. Currently, no payment relief exists but implementing one would help those facing a health and safety crisis.
The cost of transferring private lateral line to the public system is $1,975, Edwards said. The cost of Salisbury-Rowan Utilities to repair a private lateral line ranges between $500 and $700.
The $40,000 allocated for homelessness prevention would include hiring a consultant to assist with a coordinated strategy to address and prevent homelessness. Such a plan could help examine and address root causes, set targets for permanent supportive housing and establish protocols to improve collaboration among service providers and city departments.
“I really, really enjoy seeing the homeless part in there,” council member Tamara Sheffield told Edwards. “It’s obviously the invisible part of our city.”
For small business assistance, the recommendation is to invest the funds into the KIVA platform, which is a national loan program designated to help women and minorities looking to kickstart a small business. Following a presentation from council member David Post on Oct. 20, the city agreed to move forward with establishing the program in Salisbury using the Self-Help Credit Union. Post said city staff will undergo training for the KIVA program next month and plan to launch the program in the spring.
The action plan also included a recommendation that Ryan Street from Celebration Drive to Old Concord Road be prioritized in the current fiscal year as Ryan Street connects a low-income housing development to a future sidewalk improvement project on Old Concord Road.
In other business:
• C.J. Palmer of Elliott Davis PLLC, as well as Salisbury Finance Manager Wade Furches, presented council members with an audit for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The full audit will be made available to the public on Wednesday, Furches said.
• Council members adopted an interlocal agreement with the county in an effort to consolidate tax collection among municipalities into one agreement. The agreement allows county staff to withhold 1.5% of all property tax revenue collected from each municipality by 2026 rather than using a prorated rate each year. Rowan County commissioners approved the interlocal agreement in September.
• Council members adopted a budget ordinance amendment to the 2020-21 fiscal year budget that would allocate $25,000 in donations received for the completion of the tennis and pickleball court resurfacing project.
• Council members approved a Land Development Ordinance (TA-02-2020) to amend chapter Nos. 1, 2, 4, 9, 14, 15, 17 and 18 for compliance with state law. A public hearing was held for the amendments at the council’s Dec. 1 meeting, but no comments were received at the meeting or within the 24-hour period following December’s meeting. The new state law recodes existing legislation for municipalities and counties. The recodification reconciles discrepancies between two statutes, modernizes the language and clarifies the rules on certain areas of practice, such as conflicts of interest.
• Following two public hearings related to rezoning requests, council members preliminarily approved land development district map amendment Z-01-2020 to rezone an 8.24-acre parcel located on the south side of South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from corridor mixed use and highway business to only highway business. Council members also approved land development district map amendment Z-02-2020 to rezone a 0.56-acre parcel located at 725 South Main Street from Highway Business to Corridor Mixed Use.
However, both hearings allow public comments to be received within a 24-hour period following Tuesday’s meeting before official action can be taken. Comments can be submitted to Salisbury City Planner Catherine Garner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-638-5212.
• After another public hearing, city council members approved a request to close a portion of an alley in the 800 block of West Cemetery Street. In accordance with state law, closures may not be “contrary to the public interest” and no one should be “deprived of reasonable means of ingress and egress to the property” by the closing. City staff stated in a memo that they believe such conditions have been satisfied.
• Council members adopted an ordinance that would amend Section 13-329 of the city code to designate a portion of West Henderson Street as a one-way street. The area specified sits between Confederate Avenue and a point 130 feet east of Mocksville Avenue.
• Council members adopted the 2021 City Council meeting schedule, which will include only one meeting in July and December, as well as an early start time for Aug. 3 to allow council members the opportunity to participate in National Night Out events.
• Mayor Karen Alexander proclaimed two observances, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18 and National Mentoring Month throughout the month of January.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.
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