City updated on housing recovery

By Mike Gellatly -

LUMBERTON — A few days short of six months after Hurricane Matthew, Lumberton City Council members discussed public housing recovery on Wednesday.

Lemark Harris, executive director of the Housing Authority of Lumberton, updated council members, meeting as the policy committee, on his agency’s efforts to repair damage caused by the storm. Harris outlined his strategy for getting 267 damaged housing units ready for families.

“There is a dire need for low-income housing in this area,” Harris said.

The Housing Authority is trying to target those in immediate need, reaching out to those on a waiting list to make sure all claimants on the list still are in the area and in need of housing.

“There were 260 people on our waiting list three weeks ago,” Harris said.

Harris’ office “purged” the list by contacting everyone on it. Those who replied remained viable candidates. The waiting list now contains only the 78 respondents.

“Once we get the pressure off of the wait list, we can work on getting those people housed in the first phase,” Harris said. “We are prioritizing the housing based on the easiest first.”

Of the units damaged by Matthew, 140 had flood insurance and 120 did not. The Wooten Company, a Raleigh-based engineering and architectural firm, currently is working on the insured units.

The homes in the Weaver Court development are first on the list to be brought back online, Harris said. Almost all of these units are outside of the 100-year flood zone and are less problematic moving forward.

“Our flood insurance is going to make it hard to move forward if we don’t move some units,” Harris said.

Also on Wednesday, council members voted to renew its contract with CodeRED emergency and community messaging system. The emergency alert system allows mass communication of weather and community alerts. During Hurricane Matthew, the city used more than 100,000 minutes to reach residents.

“I think CodeRED proved it’s worth during Hurricane Matthew. It is more than just a weather app,” said Bill French, Robeson County Emergency Services director.

The annual contract allowed for 30,000 minutes per year for $10,000. The new contract is for 37,500 general minutes with emergency minutes being free. The cost of the new plan will be $11,201. The cost of minutes used by the city during Matthew is recoverable via the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In other business, the council:

— Voted to offer $750 in Community Revitalization Funds to Lumberton police Officer Joseph Fredrick, who appeared before the council to request sponsorship in running his fourth New York City Marathon. Fredrick hopes to raise $3,500 for Team for Kids, a nationwide organization that offers fitness and health programs for children.

— Deemed a home at 1102 Peachtree St. in Lumberton to be unsafe. It will be demolished.

— Forwarded to the Lumberton Planning Board requests for 12th Street Florists to be rezoned as a residence; an Old Whiteville Road home to be turned into a daycare; and a Roberts Avenue restaurant to be allowed to extend its opening hours and become a restaurant, bar and grill.

— Recommended Patterson and Associates to provide auditing services for the city for the next three fiscal years. Patterson’s bid of $67,500 was the lowest by $4,500.

— Heard Fiber Technologies Network, a wireless provider, will pay Lumberton to attach fiber optic lines to electrical poles throughout the city. Similar agreements already are in place with other wireless and cable providers.

— Heard Lumberton’s Public Works Department will install a 6-inch water pipe underneath the CSX railroad tracks near Cox Street.

— Learned former Lumberton Mayor Ray Pennington will be honored at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke baseball game on Saturday. A ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. naming the home dressing room after him. The ceremony will take place before the game Saturday.

By Mike Gellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

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