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South Street improvements lauded
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Henry County officials gathered Wednesday to dedicate the South Street infrastructure improvements project in Bassett by pouring cups of water into a drop inlet. Shown are (from left) Christina Pop, FEMA; Lee Clark, director of planning and community development for Henry County; Jeff Turton, Henry County Engineering and Mapping Office; Henry County Supervisors Tommy Slaughter and Joe Bryant; Michael Dodson, Community Planning Partners; Henry County Supervisors Chairman Jim Adams; and Charles Cauley, C.W. Cauley and Son. (Bulletin photo)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County officials dedicated part of the South Street infrastructure improvements project Wednesday in Bassett.

The infrastructure improvements, which started in fall 2012, are the second part of phase one of the South Street neighborhood improvement project, said Mary Ann Mason, grants manager, Henry County Community Development, Planning and Inspections.

The first part of phase one began in 2010, and 17 housing units were rehabilitated or reconstructed, according to Mason and project background information distributed by the county.

“The South Street neighborhood ... is a residential community where the housing conditions and the supporting infrastructure had seriously declined,” according to project background information. “Many of the older homes built for the nearby mill workers had deteriorated beyond repair and suffered damage from continual runoff of storm water from the surrounding hills.

“The neighborhood was also characterized by its lack of adequate street and storm drains which continuously caused the washout of South Street during even an average summer storm.”

Henry County Board of Supervisors and Reed Creek District Supervisor Tommy Slaughter on Wednesday recalled visiting the area years ago when he received complaints.

“I didn’t realize roads in the county were like that,” he said.

The most touching incident Slaughter recalled was an elderly man saying he wanted improvements so ambulances could travel the streets. The man said he was not physically able to carry his wife a distance to meet an ambulance, he said.

Lee Clark, director of Community Development, Planning and Inspections, said it was “more than a multi-year project,” that the project was talked about “every bit of 15 years ago” but funding could not be found at the time.

The idea of doing the project was brought up again several years ago, and through a lot of hard work and coordination among agencies funding eventually was obtained, he said.

In 2009, Henry County secured a $1.4 million Community Improvement Grant (CIG) from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and a grant of about $565,000 from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) administered by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, according to project background information.

It was the first time in the state that the funding sources were combined to help a community, the information states.

“...The CIG funds are ... primarily being used to rehabilitate or reconstruct homes. The HMGP funds were leveraged against the CIG funds to make improvements to the neighborhood infrastructure, including paved streets, enlarged storm drainage lines, additional drop inlets, and upgraded water and sewer lines,” according to the information. Drop inlets collect water to go into storm drains, Mason explained.

The neighborhood improvement project area includes South Street and some other nearby roads.

About 20 people, mostly officials of agencies connected with the project, attended the dedication at the corner of Fairy Stone Park Highway and South Street. To dedicate the new infrastructure system, each attendee was invited to pour a pewter cup of water into a drop inlet.

Jim Adams, Blackberry District supervisor and chairman of the board, said the project is making the thoroughfare more visually appealing.

“It’s definitely something to be proud of,” he said.

Kevin Heath, project engineer, Adams-Heath Engineering, a division of The Lane Group; Charles Cauley, president, C.W. Cauley & Son Utility Contractors Inc.; and Michael Paul Dodson, Community Planning Partners Inc., also spoke.

Several of the speakers during the ceremony thanked and praised everyone involved in the project, commended the cooperation between agencies and recognized the involvement of the late Henry County Administrator, Benny Summerlin.

In addition to the CIG and HMGP grants, other funding included $103,107 in rural addition funds that remained in the county’s Rural Addition program (a road improvement program that had ended), $21,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank and $32,000 in private funding, Mason said in a previous interview.

She said she expects the infrastructure phase of the South Street neighborhood improvement project will be completed in about four months. Remaining work includes a final inspection and punch-list (minor) items, and the board of supervisors need to turn streets over to the Virginia Department of Transportation for road maintenance, she said.

Mason said she hopes phase two of the neighborhood improvement project will be under contract this fall, and normally completion time is 24 months, she said. In that phase, there is the potential to rehabilitate up to 22 housing units.

Potential total funding from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for that project is about $993,000 if all the requirements are met, she said.


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