Burlington Times-News - Rep. Price visits Burlington grant projects
By Chris Lavender
Over the past three years, Burlington has received $1,336,113 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding (CDBG) and $911,798 in HOME funds used towards infrastructure upgrades and revitalization projects.
U.S. Rep David Price came to Burlington Thursday to see how that money is being spent.
Price, a Democrat, represents part of Alamance County in North Carolina's 4th Congressional District. The tour included stops at Family Abuse Services, Eva Barker Park, Fairchild Park Soccer Park, Fairchild Park Community Center, Burlington Housing Authority, Allied Churches, and North Park.
This year, the city is scheduled to: complete 10 housing rehabilitation projects, a sidewalk and crosswalk project along Mebane Street, paving and structural repairs at Allied Churches and a new roof at Residential Treatment Services Hall Avenue facility. It will provide two construction training classes, purchase new books and materials for North Park Library and install a new shade structure for Fairchild Park Community Center preschool playground. These projects will be made possible through HOME and CDBG.
Price toured several CDBG funding projects that have been recently completed in the city. Burlington City Manager Harold Owen, City Councilman Celo Faucette, and City Councilman Jim Butler joined Price for the tour.
The first stop was at the Family Abuse Services facility, where Community Development Administrator Shawna Tillery discussed how CDBG funding has helped keep the facility's infrastructure intact.
The tour highlighted the improvements made to a green space at 200 N. Main St. over the past year. Tillery explained community policing led to the site being developed into a children's playground and area for a picnic shelter. Two police officers patrolling the neighborhood had received frequent requests from residents in the neighborhood that the site be developed for recreational use.
With help from CDBG funding, a playground and picnic shelter were installed and opened last October.
Price also saw first hand during the tour the sidewalk upgrades completed last spring in front of the Burlington Housing Authority. Butler pointed to green space now open where private housing was once located near the housing authority. Butler explained the housing units were a blight and demolished in 2010 and that the housing authority is seeking grant funding to build senior housing units on the site.
Overall, Tillery said, public housing in Burlington is not "stressed" and current public housing is being well maintained. Price said for many communities nationwide, public housing conditions are dire with a lack of funds available to meet needs.
The tour's next stop was at Fairfield Park Soccer Park at Graham Hopedale Road. Tillery said land for the park was purchased by the city in 2008 and development of the park began in 2010 using CDBG funding. The project's total cost, which included installing a playground, two soccer fields and goals was for $260,000.
"This was a home run right here for the community," Butler said about the soccer park's completion.
While inside Fairchild Park Community Center, Tillery explained what upgrades made to the center over the past few years. Lighting upgrades at the center will help save the city $276 a month. A wing of the center was transformed into a day care center for 3- and 4-year-olds. Price stopped in to say hello to the children who were sleeping.
Tillery said the city council is scheduled to consider a budget amendment item this month to purchase a permanent electric generator to be used at Fairchild Park Community Center that serves as a Red Cross emergency shelter during disaster. Tillery said the new generator costing $75,000 would likely be purchased in October.
Without CDBG funding, Owen said many of the infrastructure upgrades made in the city would have been left undone.
"The grants help us improve the quality of life for local residents," Owen said.
Another stop on the tour was at the community garden named for Faucette at North Park. Faucette showed Price the vegetables being grown at the garden. This marks the second year the community garden has been in use.
The garden has slowly grown from five plots to 20 plots over the past two years. Future expansion is scheduled for the garden at another site near North Park.
Price also toured North Park's library, gym, and dance studio. Owen shared how the library room was renovated to make way for the public's use. According to Tillery, the library receives 1,600 patrons annually.
Lighting upgrades have also been completed at North Park, saving the city $211 a month in utilities. Tillery said a building automation project installed at North Park allows staff to better manage the building's heating and air conditioning system. The building automation has helped the city save another $276 per month.
Overall, Price said he was impressed with how the city has been able to use its CDBG funding for a wide variety of projects.
"The funding gives the city flexibility," Price said. "The projects show how CDBG can be utilized here."
Price is scheduled to be at North Park again on Saturday to participate in Family Fun Day. Price said he would be one of the judges in the baked goods contest being held at the event.