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Council boots decision on rescue plan money

The Hendersonville City Council will take a second look at how to allocate $2 million in American Rescue Plan money after members failed to reach agreement last week on the appropriations.

A city staff review of 18 applications seeking a total of $8.5 million narrowed the total to $4.7 million. City Manager John Connet then recommended grants totaling $1.5 million to four nonprofit organization, leaving $500,000 to create a new crisis response position in city hall.

Nonprofit recipients Connet recommended for funding were the Connections Center, $800,000; Housing Assistance Corp., $360,000; Pisgah Legal Services, $320,000; and Safelight, $20,000.

Connet portrayed the crisis case manager as a kind of all-around trouble shooter who could respond in situations that fall through the cracks, assist the police and fire departments, and help with code enforcement and in other areas as needed.

“Through the years city council has approached me in many different ways as it relates to dealing with homelessness, dealing with substandard housing, for example,” Connet said. “Several of you have approached me about a home off Ninth Avenue that doesn't have a bathroom and is currently using a Porta John in the front yard. We looked for transformative projects that could be geared to really benefit the citizens of Hendersonville.”

At a recent city managers association convention, Connet learned about programs that are becoming more popular around the country. In those programs “social worker folks embedded in local government serve as case managers to help the police department, help the fire department,” he said. “For example the fire department from time to time will get frequent calls from the same address because that person is alone, may be disabled and may just need lifting assistance and sometimes (is) just lonely.” A case manager could intervene, contact family and connect the person with services to help, he said.

But council members began to chip away at the $500,000 Connet wanted to set aside to fund the pilot position for up to five years.

"I do support the city position but I kind of feel like we were saying we were going to contribute $2 million to the nonprofits and (now) we're saying we're going to keep $500,000,” Mayor Barbara Volk said. “I think it's a worthwhile position but 25 percent — I think it's too much. I'd like to see more of that allocated to nonprofit requests."

Volk sought to appropriate $100,000 to Interfaith Assistance Ministry, the food pantry and crisis intervention agency whose application for $393,784 ranked second to the new Connections Center’s in the city staff's scoring of grant proposals.

When other council members expressed support for requests made by the Children and Family Resource Center, True Ridge and others, council member Jennifer Hensley said she thought it was unfair for the board to reorder the funding on the fly. Council members agreed to revisit the decision next month.

A team of five department heads and administrators reviewed the applications for pandemic recovery grants and gave them scores based on impact. Here are the applicants, amount requested, proposed use of rescue plan money and score:

  • Blue Ridge Community Health, $330,093, youth mental health first aid training program in public schools, 89.
  • Blue Ridge Literacy Council, $38,000, facilitators to help adult learners and disproportionately underserved populations gain access to technology, 74.
  • Children and Family Resource Center, $260,000, GLO Mobile unit for preschool learning opportunities and developmental screenings before kindergarten, 86.2.
  • Flat Rock Playhouse, $500,000, funding to support operations after an estimated $5 million of lost revenue during Covid, 45.4.
  • Hendersonville Theater, $112,597, operating revenue to recover from impacts of Covid, 48.6.
  • Housing Assistance Corporation, $1,924,315 (two applications), water and sewer infrastructure at Apple Ridge, a proposed affordable housing development of 60 apartments and 20 single family homes ($1.67 million); home repair program ($250,000), 88, 90.2.
  • Interfaith Assistance Ministry, $393,784, expand food pantry, equipment and storage needs to combat food insecurity, 92.
  • Joseph’s Outreach Ministries (Connections Center), $1.5 million, showers, laundry, storage, healthy food, mail, access to other nonprofit and public agencies for services, 95.8.
  • Latino Advocacy Coalition, El Centro, $500,000, specialist to connect Latino population to services, 62.
  • Mills River Partnership, $90,000, stabilize river banks in area that is a city of Hendersonville drinking water source, 57.6
  • Pisgah Legal Services, $320,000, guide low-income clients who need help with SNAP, Medicaid and other aid, 80.8.
  • Safelight, $2,350,845, (three applications), training for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners ($1,024,830); job training program for domestic violence survivors ($20,000); renovations to new facility on Washington Street ($1,306,015), 83.4, 78.6, 70.6.
  • Team ECCO, $67,580, expand educational opportunity at museum and aquarium, recover lost revenue from pandemic, 51.6.
  • True Ridge, $50,000, case management and outreach, interpreter to help Latino clients connect with resources, 65.6.
  • Western North Carolina Air Museum, $30,000, replace lost revenue, continue educational programs, 27.6