BY BRIAN JONES
The Clay County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing for a Community Development Block Grant application, heard from a contractor about a troubled Home Grant project, fielded a request from Dr. Johnny Rasberry and reconsidered aerial photography at a busy May 6 meeting.
Siloam Water Association, which serves several counties, including Clay, approached the board April 4 about applying for a Community Development Block Grant. Because only governmental entities may apply for CDBG funds, Siloam needed the county to both apply and to act as a conduit for funds. The association is trying to build a water well to better serve around 400 residents of western Clay County.
Applications are due May 17.
Monday morning the board held a public hearing on the grant application.
“This application falls under the public facilities category,” explained Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Grant Writer Phylis Benson. “The people must either primarily benefit people of low to moderate income, must remove blight or must address an emergency. I received the results of a door-to-door survey this morning, so I can’t tell you just yet if this project meets the minimum requirement. I will bring that back to you on Thursday.”
“This will serve customers along Highway 46 before you get to West Clay School,” said District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes. “It’s going to serve people all along that western part of the county.”
Benson will report back Thursday with the results of the door-to-door surveys.
Spencer Broocks, also of the GTPDD appeared to discuss the status of the ongoing Home Project grants. Last month the GTPDD reported that the 120 deadline to complete the project was fast approaching, yet very little work had been done at two of the sites. The contractor in question, Major Construction, has reportedly done asbestos remediation – which required residents of the affected homes to move out – but no demolition work.
[Major Construction originally had the contract for three of Clay County’s houses, but relinquished one of them to the next lowest bidder. – Brian Jones] At their last meeting the board sent a letter to Major Construction, instructing them to appear Monday and explain themselves. Major Andrews was on hand, and stated that the weather was to blame.
“The reason is the weather,” he said. “Most of the holdup has been getting the (demolition) people to come out. They say it’s too wet. Every time they come out, there’s a charge. We’re behind three months because of the weather. This is a real rainy season, it either rains the first of the week or the last of the week, and I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
“You have two houses in this project,” Broocks said. “Have you started on either of those?”
“We just now got the paperwork in place on one of the houses,” Andrews said. “But like I said, it’s mostly the weather. We’re ready to proceed and tear it down and everything, but it keeps raining and it’s too wet.”
“Who’s saying it’s too wet?” said District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus.
“The guy who’s going to tear it down,” Andrews said. “We’ve been waiting for him to get out there since last week.”
“If we don’t finish on time, will the state cut the project?” Lummus asked. “We had 120 days, and they’ll give us a few days for weather but it’s only a limited amount.”
“We have had some weather,” Broocks said. “November is not the optimum time to start building the house, I agree with that. The state always reserves the right to cancel a contract. If we show that every effort has been made to get these started, that’s not going to happen.
“We did issue notice to proceed on November 19,” he said. “Mr. Major had three houses, and he did relinquish one to the next lowest bidder. They have already gotten started on that. There wasn’t a whole lot of demolition on that one due to the tornado. The only thing is that the asbestos has been removed from these houses, and that caused the residents to move out. They have been displaced for six months now.”
Broocks asked Andrews if he would be able to do both houses at the same time once it got dry.
“Yeah, if it’s dry enough,” he responded.
“I think you need to shop around and find somebody else to do the demolition,” Lummus said.
“Other people are going to be higher,” Andrews responded.
“I understand that, but that doesn’t matter because we’re under the gun with the state,” Lummus said. “You tell your man if he ain’t going to tear them down then you’ve got to find somebody else.”
“Once they tear them down it won’t take no time to build them,” Andrews said.
“The other contractor has already got all his dirt work done,” said District 5 Supervisor Floyd McKee. “If he can do all that, I feel like you can get yours done.”
The board instructed Andrews to report back Thursday.
Dr. Johnnie Rasberry asked the board to consider donating to an early childhood literacy program he is developing.
Rasberry submitted a letter to the board, which reads in part: “As most citizens of Clay County, we are happy to see jobs coming to our county. For the past few years I have spoken to you about issues that concern the community. Yes jobs are coming but a large number of black males will not be in a position to participate. We as a community must do a better job of educating and training our citizens. We are addressing you today about a youth program that we feel can play a major role in addressing those needs. Our summer programs will include sports, computer basic skills and arts and crafts workshops, a debate team, music, and literacy skill development.”
The letter went on to state that Rasberry and his organization, Southern Atlantic Corporation, want to identify 200 individuals in Clay County who are willing to volunteer for the literacy program. Rasberry also asked the board to purchase 100 copies, at $25 each, of a children’s book he wrote to be used in the program.
The board took no action. Deanes said they would consult with County Attorney Bob Marshall about the legality of such a donation and would bring the matter back up at the last meeting of the month.
At the last meeting in April Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin told the board that the state was looking for counties interested in redoing aerial photography. Counties are required to do new aerial photos every 12 years; Clay County is not due to refly until 2018. Last month Lamkin advised the county not to refly until they had to.
Monday she was back, stating that she had received new information and reconsidered her recommendation.
“I talked to more people at the state, and now I think we should go ahead and do it,” she said. “The state is estimating that we could save as much as 40 percent if we go ahead and do it now. The more counties participate the lower the price, and there are 19 counties participating now.”
Lummus made a motion, seconded by District 1 Supervisor Lynn Horton, to approve a refly. It passed unanimously.
A cost will not be available until the state knows for sure how many counties are participating, Lamkin said, but noted that the cost for one county to go it alone would be around $24,000.