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LUMBERTON — Robeson County Commissioners took action on Tuesday to approve several items related to building development and rehabilitation.

During a regular meeting on Tuesday, Robeson County commissioners approved the application for the single family rehabilitation loan program for fiscal year 2022, which is issued by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. The approval will allow Adrian Lowery, director of the Lumberton Housing Authority, to apply for the funds and act as administrator on behalf of the county.

The matching funds for the grant are $15,000 and the application fee is $75 according to the information provided in the Commissioners’ meeting agenda folder.

“The county has received these funds over the past few years to help rehabilitate owner-occupied homes throughout the county. NCHFA is offering to make $126,000 available to Robeson County to help with housing repairs,” reads in part a memorandum included in Lowery’s agenda file to the commissioners.

“We were able to secure $2,770,679 in disaster recovery funds from the NCFHA for Hurricane Matthew. I hope we can continue this process with the ESFRLP FY 2022,” he wrote.

Lowery said 58 county residents received rehabilitation assistance through the disaster recovery program. There are still eight units to rehabilitate, which will cost approximately $377,000.

“So since the program started, we’ve been looking to do about 66 homes that were damaged by Hurricane Matthew and bring into Robeson County federal dollars of just over $2.8 million and that’ is where we are today,” Lowery said.

Retail Rezoning Approval

Commissioners have unanimously approved an application by the Spaulding Group to rezone a 1.72 acre area from the Residential Agricultural District to the Neighborhood Commercial District for the establishment of a retail business on Rennert Road.

The area is close to Great Marsh Church Road and Rennert Road, said Dixon Ivey Jr., Robeson County Community Development Manager.

Approval was recommended by the Robeson County Planning Board, Ivey said.

No additional retail information was discussed.

Commissioners also approved Faulk & Foster’s application for a special use permit to place a 309ft freestanding telecommunications tower in a residential agricultural district on Willoughby Road in Wisharts.

The tower supports cell service, Ivey said.

“It’s very necessary there,” he said of the tower.

Preliminary subdivision approval

Commissioners also approved a preliminary subgrade for the McRainey Farm Road subdivision in a residential farming district on McMillan Siding Road near Parkton. The flat endorsement application was made by Sandalwood Realty, LLC.

Ivey said the area has no county water, and the county director of public works said it could take two years to get county water in place for the area. However, a private company could install the water pipes. Rezoning allowed smaller lots to accommodate more stick-built homes in the subdivision.

The plaintiff is also considering asking the North Carolina Department of Transportation to include the roads in its maintenance system, Ivey said.

“I think it would be great tax revenue for the county,” Ivey said.

Robeson County Commissioner Lance Herndon lives near the Parkton area.

“I think it would be a really good addition to the housing community,” Herndon said.

CDBG Building Reuse Grant

Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved the application for a community development block grant for economic development and building reuse.

The county is applying for funding to allow Champion Homes to move into a building previously occupied by Fleetwood Homes, said Robeson County Executive Kellie Blue.

Robeson County Housing Authority Audit

Commissioners also learned that the Robeson County Housing Authority had received an unqualified audit from Mat Patterson, of Patterson & Associates, for the year ending June 30, 2021.

Patterson said the Housing Authority received a clean report regarding the exact spending of federal money and its internal control structure “to prevent unauthorized spending of federal funds.”

There were four discoveries, he said.

One discovery was budget-related, when the Housing Authority borrowed money to start paying for the amenities it had purchased. He did not change the budget to reflect that. COVID funds that arrived after the budget and were spent were also not allocated to the budget, he said.

“We had two cases where the income was not properly verified,” he said.

Four cases were found in which documentation was “incomplete” and one case “where a medical deduction was calculated incorrectly,” he said.

“None of these findings are earth-shattering,” Patterson said.

The firm reviews approximately 1,500 items during the audit.

“The Authority got seven or eight of them wrong,” he said.

“A considerable improvement” has been seen in the Authority’s staff over the past five to six years, Patterson said.

Fixed assets like equipment increased by $144,000, he said. The Housing Authority’s total net position was approximately $3,469,267.

The Housing Authority’s operating cash flow was $128,000.

“So anytime that number is a strong positive, that’s good financials,” he said.

Other topics

In other areas, commissioners reappointed Josh Walters to the health board.

Commissioner John Cummings said residents can order free home COVID-19 test kits online at https://special.usps.com/testkits.

According to the website, “Residential households in the United States can order a set of 4 free home tests from USPS.com.”

Each household is limited to one order. The kits will ship “from the end of January,” according to the site.

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