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Ayden asks citizens to help revitalize neighborhoods


By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Times-Leader

Saturday, August 11, 2018

AYDEN — Ayden is preparing its application for a federal Community Development Block Grant-Neighborhood Revitalization and is asking citizens for assistance.

The town of Ayden held meetings during the last two weeks to receive citizen input. The point of the meetings was to find out what citizens want the town to focus on, according to Ayden Manager Steve Harrell.

“We hope to get ideas about community revitalization efforts in the town,” he said. “We want your ideas. Town staff will put them into a report before the board of commissioner’s September meeting. Then the board will decide what to include in the application.”

The town is in the planning stages and does not have any grant money yet, Harrell said.

The CDBG program supports three livability principles, according to Mike Barnette of McDavid Associates, the town’s consulting firm.

“It has to promote equitable, affordable housing, support existing communities and improve communities and neighborhoods,” he said. “Also, it has to benefit low- and moderate-income persons, prevent or eliminate slums, or blight or meet other community development needs.”

For a home to be rehabilitated or reconstructed, it has to be owner-occupied, Barnette said. This means rental homes are not eligible.

The CDBG awards up to $750,000 per application. It is a very competitive process, according to Barnette. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a scoring rubric that determines how many points an application receives. Applications with more points are more likely to receive full funding.

The vast majority of participants at Thursday’s meeting wanted improvements in the Kennedy Estates and South Ayden neighborhoods, improvements in stormwater drainage and offsets for natural gas line costs.

“The main thing is, it has to support housing,” Barnette said. “Every question I asked (at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development office), the answer was ‘it has to support housing.’ If you can connect it back to supporting housing, it scores higher (on the department’s rubric).”

This means commercial buildings and rented housing, such as apartment complexes, are not eligible to receive CDBG money. There are other grant programs for those needs.

Community facilities, such as parks or senior centers, can be included as part of the grant. However, the majority needs to be home or neighborhood revitalizations.

“Since Ayden has a 53 percent low- to moderate-income population, those community centers can be rehabilitated,” Barnette said. “But you want most of the application to be scattered-site or neighborhood rehabilitation. If you have an application that’s 80 percent homes and 20 percent community center, that does better than an application that’s 50 percent homes and 50 percent community center.”

Government buildings are not eligible for CDBG money, even though they serve the community, according to Harrell.

“We were looking at town hall and possibly including a handicapped accessible elevator,” Harrell said. “However, it’s a town-owned building, so it’s not eligible. We heard (our citizens), and we will do something about it.”

Many of the citizens who came to the meetings said they were there to let the town know about their concerns and also to learn more about the grant process.

“I want to learn about the improvements our town can have,” said Elaine Barfield of West Avenue.

Sarah Connor of Allen Drive added, “I’m here to see how the application process will be developed, so I can provide assistance to citizens who really could benefit from the grant.”

Citizens can see improvements to their homes with the grant; however, they have to inform the town staff or commissioners so the homes can be included in the application.

Town employees will bring the concerns raised at both meetings to the Ayden Board of Commissioners at its Sept. 10 meeting. A second public hearing will take place then as well.

“If a citizen couldn’t attend either of these meetings, they can contact myself at town hall or any of their elected commissioners,” Harrell said. “We want to hear from you. Please reach out to us.”

The town hopes to have its grant application ready for review by late September.