09/25/13 — Fremont on track for STEP grant programs

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Fremont on track for STEP grant programs

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on September 25, 2013 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Small Town Economic Prosperity grant committees are making progress in the face of the December deadline to have their projects approved by the town board and sent to the state for review.

At their meeting Tuesday night, the committees gave reports on their progress and broke off to discuss their proposed projects in detail.

After a kickstart at their Sept. 12 meeting, the committees are working to complete the project templates outlining specifically why certain projects are being pursued, as well as a proposed timeline and costs associated with the ideas.

A project with strong support is to hire a marketing firm to work with the town to develop a branding effort for Fremont moving forward.

"We're the Daffodil town, and that's a nice slogan, but it doesn't tell you who we are, what we are and the quality we have," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said.

The committee members were fleshing out their existing ideas while proposing new ones Tuesday to see which ones they felt they should pursue.

"I feel like we're moving. We have a lot of ideas and a lot of diversity among them and we just need to pull them together," McDuffie said.

A strong contender in the housing committee getting support from the NC STEP team at large is to develop a housing brochure to distribute to area employers such as schools, large businesses and also Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to advertise the benefits of living in Fremont.

"We want to get in their head to look here," McDuffie said.

The team identified the school system in Fremont as a great strength for the area and recognized the need to include that information in any prospective home-buyer brochures.

"When a guy gets to the base, a sponsor gets stuff together for housing and whatnot and we can be a part of that package," Alderman Leon Mooring said.

Another idea that garnered support was to have a welcome package for new residents explaining energy efficiency habits to combat the price of utilities in Fremont to change the reputation Fremont has for high utilities.

"There used to be a real advantage to living in town and there should be," Burton Smith said.

Oliver Bass, NC STEP coordinator for the town of Fremont, said the town is on track, adding that he is confident officials will meet the Dec. 31 deadline.

"They're getting more organized and beginning to get clearer ideas about what they want," Bass said.

The NC Rural Center awarded Fremont $25,000 for planning a host of projects aimed at revitalizing the town economically, and then once their projects are approved, an additional $100,000 will be given as seed money to fund the town's projects.

Questions were raised about the security of the $100,000 in implementation funds expected by Fremont at the Sept. 12 meeting following an investigation into the Rural Center's use of money and its shift to the state Department of Commerce.

But town officials have been assured Fremont will receive the funds.