By Brandon Martin
To encourage more public participation in securing a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for a project in the Pine Hall Road area, Martinsville City Council held a second public hearing on the matter in the cafeteria at Albert Harris Elementary School on March 9.
The project would address blighted properties and help property owners in rehabbing their respective residences to improve the neighborhood.
No comments were received at the first public hearing on the project on Jan. 26.
Mark McCaskill, director of community development, said several new potential participants had indicated interest in the project during a Feb. 11 virtual community meeting.
“Two mailings went out, including all past participants plus the new participants from the meeting,” McCaskill said, adding that the 75 recipients received an overview letter, income survey, CDBG fact sheet, brochure, and self-addressed envelope.
McCaskill said the project will include approximately 18 housing rehabilitations with some being more substantial than others. Currently, there are 3-4 demolitions in the project as well.
“Substantial rehabs can get fairly close to almost providing someone with new livable space or a new house. It would be various rooms,” McCaskill said. “The less substantial ones would be maybe one or two rooms at a lower dollar amount.”
McCaskill said each individual property and the accompanying renovations would be determined by a rehabilitation specialist.
“We have contracted a rehab specialist to update all 18 cost estimates plus to perform the detailed write-up,” McCaskill said. “Some infrastructure, stormwater drainage and street improvements are included in this proposal.”
McCaskill said the city attempted to have staff do the assessments in the last two applications for the grant.
Bringing in the outside specialist is an attempt to give the city a better chance at receiving the grant, having failed in their previous two attempts.
“We have the outside rehab specialist who has done this type of work many times before,” McCaskill said. “We are teaming up with the PDC (West Piedmont Planning District Commission) for another set of eyes and review. Our original consultant, who is finishing up the contract, will also be another set of eyes.”
While the city is still accepting applications from homeowners interested in participating in the project, McCaskill said “it would be a stretch” to meet the deadline.
“Go ahead and sign up, but I don’t want to sit here and guarantee,” McCaskill said. “We would have to qualify the person on the income and the rehab specialist would have to be able to assess. The rehab specialist is starting with the original 18 to see if they still want to participate.”
The grant is due by April 1.
McCaskill said the application will include a line-by-line listing of the renovations that will be conducted and their associated costs.
“If we get the grant application from the state, those grants will be awarded in late summer of 2021,” McCaskill said. “We anticipate the contracts will be signed somewhere in late 2021 or early 2022.”
McCaskill estimated the duration of the project to last between 24 to 36 months, depending on the details of the contract.
A second community meeting on the project will be held at Albert Harris Elementary School on March 18 from 4 to 6 p.m.
In other matters, city council:
*Approved a resolution to support a community-based probation and pretrial court services program.
Eric Monday, city attorney and assistant city manager, said the program will allow Martinsville to partner with Halifax/Pittsylvania Court Services, with Halifax County serving as the fiscal agent. Currently, Henry County, Patrick County, the City of Martinsville and Franklin County are four of only five localities in the state that have neither local probation nor pretrial services available.
“This is more in the way of counseling, drug screening, and supervised release that will enable people and not put such a heavy burden on the jail system with them actually being incarcerated,” Monday said.
Since Halifax County originally received the grant, Monday said the city could gain the benefits without any financial investment besides “looking for office space” for the employees.
“In terms of the operations, this is not something that has a budget impact on us,” Monday said. “While it will be local people hired by this program, they will be employees of Halifax County.”
In conjunction with the services, each participating locality will also appoint members to serve on the Community Corrections Resources Board.
Monday said that even if the city moves forward with reversion, the program will not be affected.
*Recognized March as Women’s History Month and Red Cross Month.
*Noted upcoming events that include a blood drive will be held at the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center and Museum from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on April 8 and a Hazardous Waste Day that is slated for April 24, from 9 a.m. until noon.