City loses grant due to error in its application process

November 9, 2013 9:00:21 PM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


Columbus officials are pursuing other avenues for city hall renovation funding after a grant application to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was declared ineligible. 


MDAH grant administrator Aileen de la Torre said the city's application for a Community Heritage Preservation Grant listed a project cost of $600,000 for building improvements promising to match $100,000 of that amount. Program guidelines require a guaranteed cash match of no less than 20 percent of the listed project amount. The $100,000 promised match was 17 percent of $600,000. 


"There are several grants in that respect," de la Torre said. "It had to be a 20 percent match and (the application) didn't meet that." 


The management of Columbus' grant applications goes through its office of Travis Jones, the city's federal programs director. Calls to Jones were not returned as of press time. 


An item on the city council's Nov. 5 meeting initially requested approval of additional matching funds for the grant. The item, which was to ask the council to add $20,000 to the $100,000 it had already set aside for renovations, was deleted because officials were informed by a local state legislator last week that the city would not receive the grant, chief operations officer David Armstrong said. 


Armstrong said the city was encouraged to apply for the grant again next year.  


"There may be some other options available, so we're looking at that," he said. "We're determined to renovate City Hall. We've got designs and have every intention of applying again." 


Despite the setback, Robyn Eastman of city project managing firm J5/Broaddus, who had environmental inspections performed in anticipation of receiving funding, said he will still recommend the council approve funding for asbestos and mold removal from the 100-plus-year-old building's basement after test results confirmed the presence of each hazard.  


"I think we're probably talking about $2,000-to-$3,000 to remove this stuff and dispose of it in accordance with all state and federal regulations," Eastman said. "There's been some mold found down there and I think we can probably deal with that with a contractor for a similar cost to come in and make sure that mold would never cause harm to any maintenance person that goes down there." 


Tests also confirmed the building has lead paint, but where it was found was "many layers of paint deep," Eastman said, which means there is currently no health risk associated with it and it could be encapsulated with a laminate that would prevent any chance of exposure. Eastman said he originally expected there to be enough to necessitate demolishing and rebuilding some walls. 


De la Torre said 65 applications from municipalities throughout the state were filed. A total of $5 million in funding was available in this grant cycle. Recipients will be announced next month. 


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.