Letter: Pay more attention to local government
I have a few comments about an article titled "Residents share village visions" that appeared on the front page of the Nov. 17 issue. Apparently, the county "has retained" Richmond consultants to apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) "that would help fund a business district revitalization project for the court house area." The article states that the services of Community Planning Partners Inc. of Richmond are being paid for with funds from a previous CDBG awarded for that purpose.
CDBGs come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is a federal government agency. Therefore, the money must ultimately come from taxpayers. So, we are using taxpayer dollars to apply for more taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, HUD’s website states under the heading of "Eligible Activities," "Over a 1, 2 or 3-year period, as selected by the grantee, not less than 70 percent of CDBG funds must be used for activities that benefit low- and moderate-income persons. In addition, each activity must meet one of the following national objectives for the program: benefit low- and moderate-income persons, prevention or elimination of slums or blight, or address community development needs having a particular urgency because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community for which other funding is not available."
I am at a loss to see how our business district could possibly benefit from such a grant with such restrictions.
Additionally, the property in the court house area is largely owned by private individuals/businesses. How does such a grant work, then? Does the money go to the private sector to develop and rehabilitate businesses, or does it go to the local government to purchase that property and do something with it (Socialism!), or does it go to the local government to develop and rehabilitate property it already owns—which is just a small portion of the court house area?
The consultants held a "brainstorming session with Mathews residents on the future of Main Street Monday at the Mathews Memorial Library." They wanted to hear stories about the court house and learn what its assets and challenges are. The article states that no one seemed to be able to come up with a story about the court house. Clearly, no natives were present at that meeting, including myself. If we had been there, we could have told them about the Saturday nights in the court house, when everyone dressed in their best clothes and mingled in the stores and on the streets. It was a big deal. We could have told them that there used to be a movie theater on Main Street, a hotel, a bowling alley, several pool halls, even a Ford dealer! One of the residents in attendance wanted to see Hyco House turned into a museum or a small hotel. Well, I know the person who owns that property, and she spent years rehabilitating it and applied to the county to operate a bed and breakfast there. The county turned down her application! That’s why it has been for sale for so many years. One person expressed interest in central water. Does anyone in the court house really want another monthly or quarterly bill? HRSD rates have dramatically increased over the last several years as it is.
My Mathews cousins, we need to start paying more attention and being more proactive about our county and its future. Sitting back and not being involved in these local government meetings is giving silent approval for big government and big city influence to come into our already established and close-knit community.
Patricia Hudgins Miles