01/11/05 — Mt. Olive considers applying for grants

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Mt. Olive considers applying for grants

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 11, 2005 1:59 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Town Manager Ray McDonald says he has been inundated with calls from agencies asking if the town wants to apply for grant money.

Various agencies and organizations normally call this time of year, McDonald told the Mount Olive Board of Commissioners on Monday, asking if the town is interested in leftover grant money. But there have been more calls this year.

McDonald said that the money is often available because other towns cannot raise the local matching funds to receive the grants they have been awarded.

After listening to McDonald, commissioners decided to apply for two available grants. One would be used to plan the building of a bicycle trail around a tree farm the town is planning. The other would be used to renovate the old theater downtown.

The tree farm is expected to be part of the town's wastewater treatment system. A road around the farm will be needed to allow periodic inspections, but the bicycle trail could give it a two-fold purpose, McDonald said. He said the most popular project the town has completed lately is the walking trail at Westbrook Park.

"I think a bicycle trail would be just as popular," he said. The plan to build the bicycle trail would involve $20,000 state grant money from the state Department of Transportation and a $5,000 local match from the town.

Commissioner Paul Smalley made the motion to apply for the bicycle trail grant. Ray Thompson seconded the motion and the vote was unanimous.

Support for the theater grant application was not unanimous.

About a year ago, a downtown development group considered renovating the old theater at the corner of James and Center streets. The town made an offer to the owner. The owner wanted $45,000 for the building and the town declined.

"We told him we're not interested," said McDonald. "But this grant came up and I got interested."

He said that the state Department of Commerce told him it has money available for enhancement grants that require a 50 percent local match. Jan. 31 is the deadline for the applications.

McDonald told commissioners that the town could spend $45,000 to buy the old theater and the grant would provide another $45,000 for the renovations. As part of the deal, the town would have to return the theater to its original use.

Commissioner Jimmy Kornegay opposed the move, saying the cost would be too much.

The theater building is an eyesore, McDonald said. He said that it would cost $20,000 to tear down the building and that that would leave the corner lot empty. It could become a problem spot in the future, he said.

"Let's perk up the town," said Commissioner Paul Smalley, who made a motion to approve the grant application. Commissioner Lloyd Warren provided the second.

Kornegay cast the dissenting vote.

McDonald said he doesn't expect the town to get the grant on the first application.