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Second southern Nash town tosses Envirolink from grant project

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Spring Hope officials are going with a different company in trying to win state Asset Inventory and Assessment grants worth $300,000 after trying multiple times unsuccessfully through public works contractor Envirolink.

The town’s Board of Commissioners heard a Monday presentation on AIA grants from Mike Tolson of Mack Gay Associates in Rocky Mount and passed two resolutions giving him the go-ahead to apply for two $150,000 grants, one for the water system and the other for the wastewater treatment plant.

If successful, the grants — funded with state and federal dollars — help municipalities inventory existing systems, document the condition of inventoried infrastructure, and conduct studies of rates, risk analysis, mapping and hardware/software.

Tolson’s company was successful in five out of six AIA grant applications in the last cycle, Town Manager Jae Kim said.

Tolson said he would prepare the applications in time for a Sept. 30 deadline, and the grant winners will be announced in March or April.

The grants normally require a 10% local match, but Tolson said the town’s demographics qualify Spring Hope for a 5% match, $7,500, of which the town would only have to pay $2,250 in cash with the rest contributed through in-kind services.

The town’s economic indicators measure worse than state benchmarks in all five categories, Tolson told commissioners: population change, poverty rate, median household income, unemployment rate and property tax valuation.

Tolson said the town’s population had slightly dropped by 0.2%, the poverty rate is 19%, the unemployment rate is 6.1%, the median household income is $30,313 and the property tax valuation is $55,706.

The biggest advantage of the asset inventory and assessment project is that the result puts the town in a position to successfully apply for additional grants when system improvements are needed, Kim said after the meeting. He said much of the documentation created for the AIA program is required for other grants as well as useful for managing the town’s water and wastewater treatment systems.

Spring Hope’s move follows the Bailey Board of Commissioners’ April decision to terminate a contract with Envirolink to prepare a study on the town wastewater system for which Bailey had been awarded a $150,000 Asset Inventory and Assessment grant. Envirolink failed to meet a state deadline to produce the study, so Bailey leaders requested an extension, took Envirolink off the project and hired Mack Gay Associates to complete the research.

In other business Monday, Mayor Buddy Gwaltney issued the oath of office to new Police Chief Nathan Gant, a member of the Spring Hope Police Department since 2014 who Kim promoted to chief last month after Chief Anthony Puckett resigned to become chief of the Nashville Police Department.

Gant’s wife Jessica pinned on his new badge while his children, Tyson and Molly, looked on.

In his manager’s report, Kim also told commissioners that the playground equipment in the town park has been removed and the town is working with the county on purchasing new and safer playground equipment. He also said goals for the basketball court, removed for damage, will be replaced within the next two weeks.

Monday marked the beginning of the fiscal year. In a brief meeting last week, the town board gave final approval to a $1.7 million budget after a public hearing that attracted no residents.