DCA’s questions on Embassy grant were unanswered

Information requested by the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Community Assistance (DCA) remained unanswered over a month after a written enumerated list was sent to city staff.

An unsigned correspondence dated July 9, 2008 from the DCA’s Assistant Director Vickie Miller to Interim Henderson City Manager Ed Wyatt cites nine items of information needed for the grant application:

1. Explanation as to the need for this project and CDBG funds.

2. Description of the proposed service area which includes census data that identifies that the target area is at least 51 % low to moderate-income (LMI). In your description define the appropriate service area for the proposed activities. Include a map to further delineate the proposed service area. We suggest that the city consider developing overlays on the recently submitted map.

3. Description of other similar type facilities in the surrounding area. If such facilities exist, provide an explanation of how the proposed performing arts center would not be in competition with the other facilities.

4. Description of the how this proposed facility will be marketed in the target area. Please note that marketing on a county-wide basis is not allowed since this action would constitute an alteration to the target service area and make the project infeasible as discussed and as proposed.

5. Explanation of other resources being leveraged as a part of this proposed project. Include local, state and other federal resources planned for this project. Include the timeframe for these additional leveraged resources and proposed dollar amounts. Please note that all funds must be 100% committed in order to fund this project.

6. Construction budget which includes total cost to build the performing arts center by dollar amount and source.

7. Operations budget for 3 to 5 years after completion of construction. In addition, match the source of funds that will be used to cover operating expenses for the same period of time. Once the construction is complete we will still need to know how maintenance and upkeep will be provided to protect the Federal interest.

8. Draft of the Legally Binding Commitment which identifies ownership of the performing arts center as well as the agreement under which the facility will remain in compliance with CDBG regulations.

9. Strategy for keeping services and programming affordable to LMI residents at all times.

Although some of these questions were addressed in the incomplete grant application during the public hearing held on August 18, 2008, many were not. Most notably absent was an agreement between the city and the Embassy Foundation regarding ownership of the proposed facility, a marketing plan, a detailed budget, and an explanation of other resources being leveraged for the project.

An operation budget for the proposed facility was also absent at the time that the public hearing was held on the application.

When the application was released on August 15, 2008, Wyatt characterized it as “85% complete”. He said in a cover memorandum that the remaining 15% was “routine polishing work”. With the DCA’s information request items two through nine substantially incomplete on the first publicly released version of the application, Wyatt’s estimate would appear to be inaccurate.

The deadline for the application was stated to be August 29, 2008. A completed application has not yet been made available, and it is not officially known whether or not the application has been made to the DCA.

When the Henderson City Council approved the application on August 18, it was to be made subject to review by the council. Home in Henderson is unaware of any meeting that was held for members to inspect the application.