The City of Greenville, once again, made good on its commitment to address drainage issues around the city and Washington County.
The Greenville City Council voted to contribute $100,000 to the Riverside Drainage District Commission, aiding in its endeavor to acquire $3.623 million in Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) grant funds through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to improve drainage in Canal #6.
During the council’s last regular meeting on Oct. 20, Riverside Drainage District Commission secretary, Virgil Sandifer informed the council of the matching grant opportunity which requires of the commission a 30% match to the NCRS’ 70%.
“That means they’re going to give us 70% of the money and we have to give 30% of the money,” he said. “We’re on a time constraint and what we are asking is for you to help us with 30% of the actual cash ($3.6 million) — a little over a million dollars,” Sandifer explained during the previous meeting.
Sandifer also approached the Washington County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 19 and made the same proposal, aiming for an equal allocation of the 30%, or $1,000,087 among the commission, BOS and city council.
A third of $1,000,087 each, for example, would have equated to roughly $343,360 contributed by each entity respectively.
However, the BOS elected to make a determination as to what its contribution would be and reconvene after the commission met with city officials.
As Mayor Errick Simmons pointed out to the council at the last regular meeting, the application was time-sensitive as the deadline for submission is Nov. 30.
Thus, a public works meeting was held to discuss the city’s financial contribution which included public works committee members Al Brock and James Wilson, city clerk Amelia Wicks, external financial consultant, Steve Osso and Simmons.
Sandifer attended the meeting as well and asked if the city could commit to contributing at least $250,000.
By asking the same of the county, “That would be almost half,” he said. “Then we (Riverside Drainage District Commission) would come up with the other half.”
Wilson made a motion to give the commission $100,000.
Brock indicated the committee should contribute more, but Wilson’s motion to pledge $100,000 to the commission won at the public works meeting.
Before a motion was made on the matter during Monday’s regular meeting, councilwoman Tasha Banks inquired as to whether the commission had discovered a way to include other areas with dire drainage issues such as Chatham Drive.
The city’s consulting engineer, William Burle, explained because the NRCS grant is under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture, it has to have “some agricultural land next to it.”
“The park ditch was mainly all urban so it won’t comply with the grant,” he said.
During the last regular meeting, Burle said he would take a look to see if other areas would meet eligibility, but highlighted the grant stresses aspects of agricultural improvement such as reduction of erosion and top-soil loss.
Sensing the apprehensiveness of some fellow council members, Brock urged them to really consider getting behind the commission’s efforts.
“It’s an opportunity to pick up $3 million in grants with some support from the city and the county … we need to try to find a way to support this,” he implored the council. “They’ve asked for considerably more than we’re talking about.”
Brock then moved to contribute $150,000 to the Riverside Drainage District Commission, noting Osso indicated the finances were available to do so.
The motion, however, died due to lack of a second.
Councilwoman Lois Hawkins said even though it might not be in her ward, she wants to make sure someone out there who is writing the drainage mitigation grants will come up with a grant to help other areas in Greenville.
Members of the council still had contrasting views on exactly how beneficial the Canal #6 project would be to other areas in Greenville.
Ward 3 Councilman Vernon Greenlee said the project would essentially help everyone.
Banks said she could not see how the project would aid constituents’ drainage problems in her ward because the drainage flows in another direction.
“If it frees up some other ditches, it could help yours easily … if we don’t help raise this 30%, we could lose $3 million in free money,” Greenlee said.
Banks made a substitute motion to follow the public works committee’s recommendation of providing $100,000 to the commission, seconded by Councilwoman Lurann Thomas-Kingdom.
Before the council voted, Sandifer reiterated, “For us to receive the grant, we have to have letters of financial support and to get financial support from the city and the county will go a long way for us getting the grant.”
Greenlee then made a substitute motion to revive Brock’s original motion to contribute $150,000, which only received two votes to four.
The council then voted unanimously in favor of Banks’ substitute motion of giving $100,000 to the Riverside Drainage District Commission.
Simmons thanked the commission and the council for its show of support in mitigating drainage problems in the community.
Although the project was not brought to the council in time enough to be budgeted for the current fiscal year, he appreciated the council’s efforts in finding the funds to support it.
“We hope that we can get similar support from the county in addressing drainage in the community,” Simmons said.