01/15/14 — STEP panel is seeking administrator

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STEP panel is seeking administrator

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on January 15, 2014 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Small Town Economic Prosperity Committee on Tuesday delved into a number of issues regarding its plan for the $100,000 it has received from the North Carolina Rural Center for economic development.

The committee decided to hire a program administrator to help the town work through the process of implementing the different projects that have been proposed.

"Until we have that coordinator, the way I see it, we are blind," STEP team member Mark Lane said. "We don't know which way to go on this without that person."

The committee unanimously agreed that it would like to hire Judy Hills, executive director of the Eastern Carolina Council as the program administrator.

Ms. Hills has attended past STEP meetings and given advice throughout the grant planning process.

The STEP team budgeted $12,000 for the part-time position. To hire her the town board would need to approve expenditure.

After agreeing to invite Ms. Hills to the next STEP meeting on Jan. 28, discussion turned to what the team would want her to focus on first.

The group then turned to development of a town parks master plan, which would enable the team to apply for matching grants.

The idea to place benches with business advertisements along Main Street received support from the team. Such a move would help save some of the grant money for other projects, it was noted.

"We can get nicer benches and have the businesses help us pay for them," Lane said.

The team also agreed that if someone wanted to make a donation or pay for some of the materials that would help out as well.

Discussion then turned to a proposed project to place signs along I-795 to attract travelers to the town's gas stations and restaurants.

"We want people to have a reason to come here for food and gas," STEP team member Keith Spivey said. "We don't just want to be exit 14."

The STEP team's projects fall into three main strategies: attracting and retaining businesses, attracting retirees and families, and developing marketing strategies to accomplish those goals.

The $100,000 will be provided on a reimbursement basis, meaning the town will have to structure the projects in a way that the town can recoup money from one project to pay for another.