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Middlesex approved for $150K grant

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Middlesex commissioners approved a federal grant offer at Monday night’s board meeting that will give the town a total of about $150,000 in funds for equipment and a new vehicle.

The town originally applied and was approved for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for $89,923. However, after the federal government shutdown in January, the parameters for the grant were changed, and the board amended its original proposal. At the time, commissioners were told to submit everything the town might need or want. Mayor Lu Harvey Lewis said the additional list items, such as playground equipment for Hanes Park and generators for each of the town’s lift stations, were more of a “wish list.” The amended grant proposal totaled $314,176.25.

Monica Thornton, grant administrator for the USDA, presented the formal offer Monday evening. The offer included a grant for $100,000 and a seven-year loan for $47,000 at a 4.25% interest rate. Thornton said if the interest rate should rise or fall once the fiscal year ends June 30, the offer would use the lower interest rate. The town would be responsible for $1,999.64 to round out the offer.

The funds will be used to buy a new Bandit chipper for $39,023.60, a new three-phase generator to be used with one of the town’s wells for $29,371.03, two Kubota zero-turn mowers for $12,703.25, an Amazing Machinery jetter for $25,368.00 and a 2019 Ford F-150 crew-cab truck for the police department for $40,633.38. The funds would also cover about $1,900 in attorney fees and taxes.

The board also approved the 2019-20 fiscal year budget after holding a public hearing immediately before the start of the regular monthly meeting. Taxes will remain unchanged for town residents; however, residents will incur an additional $1.75 sanitation fee per customer.

John Anthony, certified public accountant for Wilson-based accounting firm Anthony & Tabb, P.A., said he formally submitted the town’s audit to the state on Friday and is awaiting approval.

In other business, the board decided to repeal a section of its employee benefits plan that entitled employees with 30 years of service to the town to remain on its group health, dental and vision insurance plan until age 65, with premiums being paid by the town. Lewis cited a combination of rising costs of carrying the specific coverage, which he said had risen from about $1,500 every few years to about $2,300 per year, and the fact that only one current town employee would be able to fulfill the requirement to receive the coverage, provided he remained employed with the town for the next 30 years.

The town also approved a resolution to submit an N.C. Scenic Byway Study List application to the N.C. Department of Transportation to nominate the 11-mile Nash County stretch of U.S. 264 to the state Scenic Byway program.