The city of Laurinburg has joined forces with Lumber River Council of Governments to secure more than $400,000 in grants to revitalize dilapidated and struggling neighborhoods.
The CDBG Catalyst Grant would come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Adrian Lowery, who works for the LRCG.
Lowery has visited dozens of homes in the New Town and Glen Acres areas of Laurinburg, surveying their neighborhood improvement needs.
“If there was ever an area that needs community revitalization it is this area,” Lowery said during Tuesday’s meeting of the Laurinburg City Council.
Joining Lowery on many of the visits were City Planner Brandi Deese and Susan Covington of Habitat for Humanity. The group is using the feedback from visits along with information from mailers sent out earlier to prepare the final grant materials for the Community Development Block Grant’s Catalyst program.
The tentative budget for the grant money would include $370,000 for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of homes, $30,000 for the cleaning off and up of burned out properties and properties in disrepair and another $50,000 for a playground and running track in the area.
“That area was identified as one with some drug traffic, and we thought … it would help add some light.”
Lowery said that he was received in the homes of locals with some apprehension during the surveying process.
“If you’re from the outside, Laurinburg natives don’t accept you. I’m going to help you remedy that,” said Councilman Curtis Leak, offering his assistance.
Leak did express concern that $50,000 was preliminarily slated to be spent on playground equipment and a walking trail when “I’ve got people that need a house.”
In his suggestion that the $50,000 should be spent elsewhere, Leak took the opportunity to praise the city’s housing projects, which he said “are the best in the USA.”
In response Lowery explained that the nature of the grant consideration process made it expedient to include a diverse list of projects, rather than only home reconstruction.
Of the 31 letters sent out by Lowery’s group to New Town residents requesting their feedback, only three were returned. In Glen Acres 21 were sent out and only two were returned.
Based on Lowery’s estimates more than 60-percent of the homes in question are rental units.
“And many aren’t tied into electrical,” Lowery said.
A request by Laurinburg property owner Jerry L. Glover to pave over Beta Street and provide curb and guttering for that area was tabled pending the collection of more information by city staff, including the potential costs of such a project.
Glover’s property frequently floods in the rain, which he blames on the way the city has re-directed water flow in the area.
If the project were to be approved, the costs of the pavement and the curb and guttering would be assessed to residents of the street.
“I own 75-percent of the property and would be willing to pay my part to have this fixed,” Glover said.
Councilman Drew Williams expressed an interest in gathering feedback from others likely to be responsible for paying the assessments.
“If they are not going to pay then we are wasting our time, right?” said Councilman JD Willis.
Upon receiving cost estimates the council will resume consideration of the issue next month.
“This is not dead,” said Councilman Kenton Spencer, acting as mayor pro tem for the evening in the absence of Mayor Tommy Parker. “We will go forward so we can get more information … so we are moving forward in a conservative manner.”