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Grant to allow Bassett project to move forward

Sunday, June 23, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin staff writer

Funds awarded to Henry County on Friday are the final piece of the puzzle to resolve housing and other problems in the South Street Neighborhood of Bassett, according to Mary Ann Mason, grant administrator for the county.

“This grant award for Phase II is the final piece of funding that the county needed to remedy the long-standing housing and infrastructure deficiencies in the neighborhood,” Mason said Friday afternoon.

Earlier that day, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that the second phase of the South Street Neighborhood Improvement Program would receive $500,000.

The allocation is among the more than $6.8 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds announced by McDonnell. Martinsville also received a $700,000 grant for the New College Institute’s expansion. (See related story.)

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which administers the multi-year funding program, will award part of the $500,000 in the near future, she said.

“Then, we have to meet certain goals within a certain time period, and as we do that,” the DHCD will release the rest of the funds for work on 22 housing units, she said.

For instance, the county could be required to complete part of the work in a certain amount of time, she said.

“As long as we meet the goal that DHCD sets for us, they automatically free up” the remaining funds allocated to the county, “and we keep trucking, going out and doing housing rehabs,” Mason said.

After Friday’s announcement, Mason said “the next step is a pre-contract meeting with the DHCD representatives. At that meeting, we discuss the next steps the county has to take,” such as developing the designs, coming up with a timeline and providing any additional documentation needed by the DHCD to get the project started.

“They typically give us 90 days to get that documentation before they officially present us with the grant award,” she said, adding that rehabs could start by early fall.

“Basically, the way the program works is that residents apply” for help, and the county provides it on “a first come-first serve basis and based on priority,” Mason said.

The rehabs can include demolition and rebuilding, she said. “It depends on the needs for each housing structure. It can be demolished and rebuilt. That is called substantial reconstruction, or if less work is needed, then it is considered a housing rehab.”

Mason said rehabs typically address a number of systems, from plumbing, electrical, concerns with the foundation and others.

“We’ve been working in this neighborhood since about 2008, and the original scope of the project was very large,” she said.

The project initially included infrastructure work on water/sewer lines, storm drainage infrastructure and paving South Street and part of Pleasant Ridge Road “to bring those roads into the” Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT’s) road maintenance system, Mason said.

The original housing rehab totaled more than 40 units when the project started in 2008, she said. “The area was so large and the cost was so high to make all those improvements that we had to break it into two phases,” she added.

Phase I was a housing rehab on 17 units “and all the infrastructure improvements,” she said. Some of those improvements still are underway and due to be completed in July, mainly because the county was able to get funding from the state Department of Emergency Management, Mason added.

“That’s why we are only doing housing rehabs in Phase II,” she said.

Additional details about the program are available by calling 634-4620.


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