City gets $1.8M NSP grant

COVINGTON - The city of Covington has been awarded a Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant of nearly $1.8 million to apply toward a community center in the Walker's Bend neighborhood.

The grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs totals $1,794,702. The city applied for $1,085,087 but received additional funding because other communities opted not to apply, so the remaining monies were distributed to applicants based on criteria that included foreclosure and unemployment rates.

The money will be used to construct residential rental units for low-income families. The initial plan for the building called for 30 residential units, kitchen space for commercial use, a business incubator and classroom space on the ground floor.

However, the city did not receive the Community Development Block Grant to fund the kitchen/incubator space. So that space will now be used for two additional residential units, said Planning Director Randy Vinson. Classroom space for financial counseling, job training and life skills will still be included.

Even with the increase in the NSP grant, total funding available is a bit less than it would have been had the city received the Community Development Block Grant, Vinson said.

"We're continuing to set the budget. We'll have to build what we've got money for," he said.

The NSP funding was available to the county, and commissioners agreed to allow the city to apply in its stead, as the county has had difficulty meeting low-income requirements for NSP funding.

The county has also agreed to allocate between $500,000 and $545,000 in SPLOST dollars designated for a community center in District 4 to the project. The county also designated $435,000 of remaining NSP funding it received from the first round of grants.

Initial estimates on the total cost for the building were up to $3.6 million. Funding not covered by grants would come through a loan taken out by the Covington Housing Authority.

The residential units would serve to move qualified tenants of the Covington Housing Authority into market rate housing. The classroom space would house a job training and life skills program administered by the Newton County Ministers Union and Georgia Piedmont Technical College, formerly DeKalb Tech, and a classroom for the existing Covington Housing and Financial Counseling Program.

The Housing Authority and Newton County would own the building and would be responsible for maintenance and operations if rent payments are not enough to cover expenses.

Jim Alexander, attorney for the Housing Authority, said to simplify things, the authority should be the owner and manager with the county owning whatever portion needed to meet SPLOST requirements.

Vinson said he expects the project will be put out to bid by January and could go to contract by March.