Madison Street neighborhood gets money for improvements

Published 9:52 am Saturday, February 28, 2015

On Wednesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the Madison Street Neighborhood Revitalization would be one of the projects funded by this year’s Community Development Block Grants.

“Funding from sources like the Community Development Block Grant is vital as we work to build a new Virginia economy,” he said. “Through the CDBG program, we are able to provide resources for important economic and community development projects that help create great places for our citizens to live, work and conduct business.”

Madison Street, one of the seven projects funded, will receive $700,000 this year, and over two years $1,233,575, which was the full amount requested by city officials. The city is expected to provide a match of $312,004.

The project began back in 2012 and revolves around making improvements to homes and infrastructure in the area of Madison Street. The infrastructure improvements will mostly aim to improve drainage and the sewer system.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for us to improve the infrastructure on that street, as well as for the residents of that street, who will benefit from rehabilitation of their houses,” Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn said. “We were very fortunate that we were successful in this round, and we look forward to the many improvements and benefits that the grant will offer.

“It adds to our concern of improving the South Street corridor. I think it is a win-win for us all.”

Of the people surveyed, 20 lower-middle income homeowners were willing to accept the aid, and 10 low- to middle-income tenant-occupied housing units also expressed interest. It benefits 69 people.

There could be money left over to aid other homeowners, if more interest is shown after seeing the rehabilitation of the homes. There are 54 households in the area, which includes two duplexes.

Johnson-Ashburn said she hopes that more people will take the city up on the improvements.

“I am hopeful that once people see the activities starting that more people will opt in, and try to take part in it,” she said. “At least to explore their choices, options and really understand the grant. It is a good thing for Franklin, a good thing for the residents and a good thing for South Street.”

Not everyone has been on board with the project from the start, including Ward 3 Councilman Greg McLemore. He left the previous meeting involving this discussion last March after the mayor called the police up front to make sure the councilman stayed in line.

One of his issues stems from a new state requirement, where residents receiving the benefits will be asked to pay a minimum of $25 a month over 10 years.

The other issue dates back to a Community Development Block Grant on Langston Street, which for one homeowner turned into something that he didn’t sign up for and put him in danger of having a lien put on his home, or worse, a foreclosure.

With that story out there of how the scope of the project changed for one homeowner, McLemore said the Madison Street project is a volunteer program that should not force people who don’t want to take part to accept the rehabilitation.

“I hope the people that do get the chance to benefit from it do benefit from it,” he said.

However, McLemore added he was a member of the committee that looked into which area should get it, he’s a resident in the area, and he is the councilman for the ward the project is in.

“I was the only one who could claim all three, and I said no,” he said. “It just shows that the council doesn’t respect the wishes of the representative of this ward.”

Johnson-Ashburn has equated McLemore’s concerns as scare-tactics aimed at keeping people from benefiting from a good thing, adding that the budget for this project does not have a line-item for acquisition. If any residents had concerns, she encouraged them to meet with City Manager Randy Martin or Community Development Director Donald Goodwin.

The announcement comes a few days after Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones was in Franklin for the Community Leadership Breakfast. Earlier this fiscal year when the Governor announced CDBG awards, Franklin’s project had not made the cut.

“The CDBG program continues to help Virginia’s localities make the necessary improvements to stay competitive and thrive in the 21st Century,” Jones said. “These are the types of tools we need in our toolbox to help our communities, particularly those in rural areas, continue their economic rebound.”