Newsoms asks for county’s grant aid

Published 11:41 am Saturday, June 1, 2013

COURTLAND—A request from the Town of Newsoms for assistance from Southampton County to serve as the applicant for a planning grant sparked much discussion during Tuesday night’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

According to County Administrator Mike Johnson, Newsoms last year contracted with a consulting firm to prepare a report with recommendations to improve storm water drainage, dividing the town into four drainage sub-basins with projected costs.

Johnson said now the town is seeking a planning grant to assess housing conditions within each of the sub-basins to “better define the area that has the greatest needs and help prioritize the sequence of improvements.”

He further explained the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development requested the county function as primary applicant and actively participate on the Management Team.

Johnson was seeking direction from the board as to how to respond to the request from Newsoms.

He explained the county’s planning office has a staff of one person, and that she is spread thin and already works many after-business hours. Johnson said he was optimistic the county could free up resources by July 1, when a Shared Services agreement with Franklin takes effect. But he didn’t think the county had the resources to honor Newsoms request.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike said, “I take my hat off to Newsoms for the work they’ve done. I feel the county should honor this request.” He further said he thought other employees could answer the phones to “free up the planning department.”

“To turn down this request would be a slap in the face,” Updike maintained.

Supervisor Barry Porter (Franklin District) said, “No one is advocating turning down the request.”

Porter then asked if the Town of Newsoms would be penalized if there were a wait until the city and county combine departments and staff could assist. Johnson said the Department of Housing and Community Development would have to answer that.

Dr. Alan Edwards (Jerusalem District) said, “We need to give them some kind of answer.”

Supervisor Ron West (Berlin/Ivor District) said that managing the grant would involve a significant amount of time.

Bruce Phillips, supervisor from Capron District, suggested someone writing a letter to ask for an extension.

“Can Newsoms take care of that,” asked Phillips.

In looking at the printed materials given to the board, it was noted that Newsoms received the letter from those who administer the Community Development block grants on May 6, but the letter was dated as being written on March 2. It set out a list of tasks to accomplish by May 10.

Updike said he hated to see the opportunity for Newsoms go by.

“Let’s spend the extra dime to see it carried out,” he said.

West responded, “You are asking to take on a task, but we don’t have anyone to do it.”

Chairman Dallas Jones suggested Newsoms ask for an extension. Porter agreed, saying, ”Indicate we want to work with them but we don’t have the staff until July 1.”

Edwards felt the request should be given a priority and put other tasks on the back burner for the planning department. Updike added, “It will improve the living conditions and development of the county. To run the chance of losing (the grant) is hard to accept.”

West asked Johnson to get in touch with Mayor Harvey Porter of Newsoms and show willingness to work with them as soon as manpower is available.