The legislative priorities that follow were approved unanimously at Monday’s Henderson City Council meeting.
The priorities were developed by the FAIR Committee which is chaired by Henderson City Council member Lynn Harper. Rick Seekins from the Kerr-Tarr Regional Council of Governments assisted the committee in the development and prioritization of the items to be submitted to Henderson’s state and federal legislative delegations for consideration.
Input was solicited and accepted from all Council members and Henderson Mayor Clem Seifert before the final version was approved by the City Council.
To: Representative Michael Wray
Date: December 20, 2006
Re: Legislative Support Needs
Henderson’s Plight: Over the past several years, the City of Henderson has experienced a series of economic setbacks that have created an extraordinary situation. Fiscal issues have arisen with which the City cannot cope without special assistance from the North Carolina General Assembly. With this requested assistance, the City and its citizens face a bleak future in which the provision of necessary services will need to be curtailed for financial reasons.
The loss of major employers throughout the City, such as Harriet and Henderson Yarns, Inc, Americal Corporation, JP Taylor and others caused a severe reduction ($89,000,000 annually) in the tax base of the city, stressing the City’s ability to provide essential services as it strives to improve conditions so that new business can locate and grow here.
What is the City of Henderson doing? In response to that loss of revenues, the City administration has chosen to move in two directions:
* Reductions in funding have caused the City to provide services to its Citizens with a reduced workforce. Normal preventive maintenance has necessarily been minimized in some cases, and the already-aged physical plant of the City is deteriorating. For example, problems in the waste water system have led to conditions that create a public health hazard and subject the City to regulatory fines that will further cripple our operations. Yet, even with those conditions, the City cannot take significant preventive actions, as recommended by the State Department of Environment and Natural Resources, due to lack of funds.
* Because funds have to be devoted to the provision of necessary services, the continuation and development of non-essential services that enhance the quality of life in the community, such as improved transportation networking, recreation and remedial services for our youth, etc. must be delayed into the future. This delay causes the quality of life of the City to decline, and from an economic development viewpoint, makes the City less attractive to new and emerging businesses, which should be the foundation on which the City can rebuild itself.
What does Henderson need? To cope with these challenges in a responsible and orderly manner, the City Council has unanimously established a set of priorities for which we need resource support. Henderson has identified more than two dozen activities that will improve City operations and conditions. We are enclosing in this request only the highest priority items. In that way, you will know our highest needs and can work to provide us with the assistance we need to put Henderson back on a solid footing.
We feel that overcoming these most pressing challenges will most rapidly move the City back on a positive track and will create a momentum for further redevelopment and revitalization that will allow the City to regain its former dignity and strength.
We appreciate any assistance that you can provide in resolving these challenges and pledge to work cooperatively with you to maximize the impact of your assistance on the citizens of Henderson.
If you have any questions regarding these priority needs or need additional information. Please contact Mayor Donald Seifert, Jr. or City Manager Jerry Moss.
CITY OF HENDERSON
Program components needed:
* Remediate WWTP and System backups causing flooding
* Identify and remediate system-wide Inflow and Infiltration (I&I)
* Upgrade and expand the capacity of the WWTP with a different treatment process which will be more cost effective, use less chemicals that cause future problems in the stream leaving the WWTP
Impact of Actions:
* Eliminating flooding will allow system to operate more efficiently, as has been ordered by DENR. Eliminating flooding will keep our citizens from being exposed to a potential public health risk.
* System-wide I&I has been identified in preliminary engineering study as the cause of a major reduction in the efficiency of the system, due to storm water overloading the system when it should be handling waste water. The current system has a capacity of 4 MGD, while the total inflow during recent weather events has exceeded 12 MGD.
* The State Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reviewed the system with the same finding, which has led to a strong DENR recommendation for mitigation.
* Both the waste water treatment plant and remainder of system is approaching, or has exceeded, its normal life expectancy without upgrading and repair. The system, as it currently exists, would not be able to easily handle a new major industrial or commercial user without large costs to the new company, negatively impacting on economic development in the City.
* The City wastewater service system is the only system available to service the Kerr-Tar Hub site in Vance County. Without expansion and repair of the system, the exciting and innovative Kerr-Tar Hub project will probably be unable to handle the mid-tech or life sciences companies being projected for the Hub.
* The City of Henderson has been forced to eliminate its Division of I & I Repair due to budget constraints, meaning that staff is not available to remediate stream blockages and mitigate other causes of flooding. City does not have funds to hire outside workers to perform that repair work, to pay for the equipment and materials needed to make the repairs and improvements or to deal with extraordinary wastewater issues since it is struggling to deal with normal operating challenges. If the City goes under a Court order to mitigate the situation, it will need to cut further City service positions and make other budget cuts. Help is needed now to alleviate this situation. It is estimated that the cost of dealing with only the vegetative blockages and needed riprap installation (to prevent further erosion and flooding) exceeds $150,000. The City can only bear 10% of that cost and requests support from the State in paying the remainder.
* Resolving the I & I problems will require a complete system evaluation to determine the most frequent and most severe I & I locations and to develop an engineering report on how best to correct the situation. At that point, a budget and phased schedule for repairing the system can be developed and adopted. Since preliminary engineering work has been done on this issue, the cost of completing an engineering study will be reduced. However, the City does not have the staff on board to complete this study and would need a consulting engineer. It is estimated that the cost of that consultant study would be approximately $600,000; the city could assume approximately 10% of that cost and requests the state to provide the rest. The City also requests funding to cover 90% of the cost of Phase I of the I & I repairs, which will be determined through the engineering study that can be completed within 14 months of a State grant for the study.
* Most of the treatment system was constructed prior to 1982, and is operating with a technology that has not been updated since then. Many components of the system are wearing out and repairs have become so costly as to be prohibitive and beyond the City budgetary capacity. Many parts are no longer manufactured. In addition,. the system is really not capable of absorbing any major new customers, and will soon be under DENR directive to plan a new or expanded facility. This will directly impact the success of the Kerr-Tar HUB project.
Many of the lines throughout the City were installed during the 1880s and are made of terra cotta, allowing a major infiltration of tree roots and plants. The Waste Water Treatment Plant was constructed in the early 1960’s and received its only major up-fit in 1982. A engineering design for a new plant was completed in October 2002 with estimated construction costs of approximately $23,000,000. Preliminary estimates at today’s prices are around $30,000,000. Either price makes the affordability of constructing a new plant virtually impossible based on our current revenue stream. Our sewer rates are already above average in the state. Raising them enough to pay the debt service would place an undue burden on our citizens who are already struggling to meet their financial obligations. Henderson needs some significant state and federal grant money to assist us in financing a new wastewater treatment facility.
ORANGE/BRECKENRIDGE NEIGHBORHOOD REDEVELOPMENT
In order to demonstrate that the neighborhoods of Henderson are its backbone and strength, and to show the City’s dedication to renovation and revitalization of neighborhoods, the City had chosen the Orange/Breckenridge Neighborhood Revitalization Project as its next priority issue.
Project components needed would include:
* Initiate implementation of Neighborhood Revitalization Plan completed by NC Department of Commerce’s Division of Community Assistance, with the cooperation of Henderson City staff and a local architect.
* Acquire 32 contiguous parcels in Orange/Breckenridge Area
* Raze dilapidated structures in the area
* Secure funds to initiate infrastructure repair and housing development.
Impact of Actions:
* Redevelopment of the Orange/Breckenridge community will have a series of positive impacts on the neighborhood and the entire City of Henderson. It can demonstrate that preparing the neighborhood for redevelopment and homeownership will lead to revitalization of that neighborhood and will create a blueprint for rejuvenation of other blighted communities in Henderson.
* This redevelopment, in an area with very high crime and negative social activities and very low homeownership, demonstrates that the City Administration places the highest possible emphasis on redevelopment of the neighborhoods of the City, that those neighborhoods are the backbone of the City, and that every community within the city matters.
* The installation of adequate infrastructure and especially the street lighting and sidewalk concepts identified in the neighborhood plan, will not only provide a safer and more secure environment. This will also demonstrate the City’s willingness to listen to and partner with the positive leaders in that community.
* This project will also create a community support network. While initiation of that network will be the City’s task, the network that emerges will be a partnership of public, private, and faith-based stakeholders.
* The 35 stakeholders that have given input for the redevelopment plan prepared by the team led by the State Division of Community Assistance are the foundation of solid, public minded citizens that will lead the revitalized community and will attract additional solid neighbors.
* The initial phase of support will be development of the ‘planning’ infrastructure, including control and/or ownership in the 32 vacant parcels in the community, merging and re-dividing parcels to match plans, revising zoning and ordinances governing the area, and making the area ready for redevelopment. It is estimated that the cost of that phase of the redevelopment will be approximately $375,000, and can largely be accomplished with additional City staff, assisted by Task Force members.
* Physical infrastructure needs to be installed/repaired before physical reconstruction can proceed. Water service to the area needs reexamination, due to the age of the system in that part of the City, sewer, and especially storm water mitigation systems need to be redesigned and rebuilt, especially because to the streams that cross the community. Those streams provide a wonderful opportunity for green space development and neighborhood enhancement, but need to be completed prior to progressing with further redevelopment. The cost of design of those systems is approximately $75,000, and construction of the water-related infrastructure is additional to that. The City can only afford to pay approximately 10% of that cost, with the remainder coming from outside sources.
* Revision of the road system and especially the installation of the recommended street lighting system and needed sidewalks are the next step to redevelopment of the neighborhood and will cost approximately $125,000, and will need support from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
* The design, promotion, and construction of housing needs to be supported by the community support network, including the architect that has volunteered many hours in assisting with design of the community and has offered to further assist with housing design. Innovative partnerships with public, private, and faith-based groups in the community will be the best way to promote homeownership and private sector redevelopment of the community. Seed money for homeownership or other programs from the state would be critical to demonstrating the government’s willingness to participate in such a coalition. An initial homeownership advancement program, such as an IDA project, would provide leverage to promote the concept without a continuing subsidization concept.
NEIGHBORHOOD BLIGHT MITIGATION
One of the most pervasive negative images of the City of Henderson is the presence throughout the city of deteriorated and blighted neighborhood conditions and the presence of dilapidated housing. As a further demonstration of the Administration’s dedication to strengthening the City’s neighborhoods as the background and foundation of the City, this third priority proposes to address these conditions through:
* Removal of the more than 200 dilapidated housing units throughout the City,
* Development, through the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, of a set of wealth-building and homeownership programs;
* Develop a program for identification and repair of substandard owner-occupied housing units throughout the City, and
* Develop programs for neighborhood residents in credit awareness, financial literacy and to assist with home ownership and maintenance issues.
Impact of Actions:
* Remediation of the blighted neighborhoods of Henderson will have a strong ameliorative impact on the city, especially through elimination of the following factors:
* Increased crime thrives in abandoned and vacant houses, especially fugitives, vagrants and drug dealers
* Over a dozen unoccupied houses have been burned in the past year
* Property values decline as neighborhood housing vacancies and abandonment rise
* A third of our students attend schools in the blighted neighborhoods and are impacted by the hopelessness that pervades those areas
* As the tax base declines due to the many abandoned structures, the increasing tax rates discourage new industry
* Visitors and tourists receive a negative impression of Henderson as they enter and/or pass through the city and view abandoned and deteriorated houses
* Abandoned structures, along with abandoned cars and related trash encourage hazardous vermin and create a public health problem
All of theses issues can be alleviated if neighborhood blight is removed or improved. More than 250 dilapidated houses have already been identified throughout the City.
* The ratio of homeownership versus rental is almost directly inverse to the state average, and that ratio is cited as a major negative impact on neighborhood conditions in Henderson. A major initiative should be the development of a set of homeownership programs that will encourage a higher rate of owner-occupied housing. State assistance through development of Individual Development Account programs that build community wealth and rent or lease to own programs that also contribute to home ownership would help to reverse those negative trends. A key component to that program would be the provision to program participants a set of classes emphasizing credit literacy and repair, home repair and maintenance, and neighborhood conditions awareness.
* The City would like assistance with a special concentrated needs assistance program that would focus on rehabilitation of owner-occupied houses with serious structural deficiencies, in deteriorating neighborhoods. The unique program would emphasize and concentrate on neighborhoods with low home ownership rates and deteriorated housing conditions–thus allowing the owner-occupied houses to emerge as symbols of the revitalization occurring in that neighborhood. Also needed, as part of that program would be set of special components that would provide repair and remediation to the infrastructure in the same neighborhood.
* The City of Henderson, because of its declining tax base, is increasingly unable to provide the services identified in this section. Accordingly. Henderson is seeking assistance with these efforts.
* Through a partnership effort in the City, Henderson has been able to begin to clear some of the dilapidated housing in the city, but has stretched its resources to their limit. Assistance in demolition and clearance of the 200 remaining dilapidated houses in the City is needed. The partnership that exists within the City could cover approximately 25% of those costs, but additional funds are needed to cover the balance.
* If a wealth-building program were to be started as a vehicle for low-income, first-time homebuyers to acquire a home, the City could cover the cost of a $1,000 match for each client who successfully saves the $1,000 that is the standard goal of such programs. The other costs of the program would have to be covered by outside resources
* The City is seeking to develop a neighborhood resource support network that would coordinate and oversee the operation of a scattered site housing rehabilitation project. The City Utilities Department could oversee the infrastructure rehabilitation portion of the proposed program. State resources would be needed, and could easily be identified as a concentrated needs project.