With a number of capital improvement projects on the town’s wish list for the coming budget year, Swansboro is hoping its recent effort to establish a watershed management plan will provide a little financial boost.
Scott Chase, town manager, at the April 11 meeting of the town commission, received permission to apply for a Section 319 Grant in the amount of $230,000. The federal funds would be awarded through the Environmental Protection Agency. Swansboro’s share would be $115,000.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to authorize the application. He told commissioners the town would be partnering with the N.C. Coastal Federation in seeking the funds to help capture rainwater on the town hall campus.
“They were really excited about what could be done on this site,” Chase said. “It seems like a tremendous opportunity.
“They will be the lead agency, putting in the grant.”
Earlier this year, Swansboro approved a watershed management plan that was developed in conjunction with the Coastal Federation. Commissioner Frank Tursi pointed out that the plan has yet to be approved by the state and that could derail the grant request.
“Only local governments that have an approved watershed plan can apply for the grants,” he said.
However, Chase said officials with the federation are “pretty confident” the process will be allowed to play out.
“They (grant officials) will let us put in the application for the 319 Grant in tandem with the watershed plan,” Chase said last week. “That has been confirmed.”
The deadline to file the application is April 28. Chase said this week that the process is moving along smoothly.
In discussing the grant and its potential benefit, Chase said it might allow the town to not only retrofit Swansboro Town Hall and its parking area, but it could also help ensure that a parking lot project on the books for the coming year is accomplished in the “greenest” way possible.
The town’s watershed management plan – as with any plan of this nature – has as its goal to reduce the amount of storm water that runs off a property and winds up in streams and the river. It applies to the entire town.
“Right now for the most part town hall doesn’t have the storm-water control measures that we desire,” Chase said. For that reason, he added, “It’s a great retrofit project.”
He noted that the age of the structures on the town hall campus – Chase said all were built between 1950 and 1989 – predate runoff-control measures.
“At the same time, with all the projects that are going on, it’s a great time to do it,” Chase added.
Among the projects on the board for the coming fiscal year is the purchase of property adjacent to the Public Safety Building. The home on the lot will be razed and, in one phase, a parking area will be installed. In another phase, parking spaces will be added to other areas of the town hall campus. The plan calls for reconfiguring some existing area for 30 parking spaces and putting in 40 spaces in the new section.
“The 319 Grant would allow funding to do permeable paving,” Chase said. That type of paving allows water to seep through rather than run off.
The property purchase and demolition is estimated to cost $95,000. Construction of the parking area is estimated at $167,307.
Chase anticipates town employees would do much of the work at the site. That would qualify as an “in-kind” contribution toward the town’s share of the grant funds.
The property purchase funds are included in the budget proposed for 2017-18. And Chase is confident the project to add the 70 parking spaces to the campus will be developed over the next couple of years. “It’s a very do-able project,” he said. Of the grant, he added, “That would certainly speed that project up.”
Following up on the management plan with a chance to provide some upgrades to storm water management has officials with the federation excited, according to Chase.
The Coastal Federation is a nonprofit membership organization that works to keep the coast of North Carolina “a great place to live, work and play.” Through a variety of programs and partnerships, the federation provides for clean coastal waters and habitats, advocates to protect the coast and teaches and informs people about the coast and what they can do to protect it.
“It was an exciting project for the Coastal Federation to put in,” Chase said. “There can’t be a more high-profile project that we can do … a lot of visibility. This is what the Coastal Federation is really good at.”
Once the property purchase is complete, there will be places to develop rain gardens and other “best management practices” onsite.
“This is a great opportunity to retrofit,” Chase said. He called the work “an opportunity” to demonstrate to others what can be done. “We can put signs out and show the various BMPs.
“There is a lot of impervious surface onsite,” Chase explained. “There are a lot of options … for the storm water retrofit.” Dealing with that will set an example for others. “The town has always got to be a beacon. The town has to lead by example.”
Email Jimmy Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.