Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Surf City receives $400,000 for new town hall and repairs to park damaged by Florence

The Golden LEAF Foundation grant money is meant as a “last money in” approach meant to fund the projects in ways that FEMA may not.

Surf City Town Hall pictured in mid-August, weeks before Hurricane Florence caused extenseive flooding damages to the building, forcing administrators to temporarily relocate to the town's community center. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Surf City’s Town Hall pictured in mid-August, weeks before Hurricane Florence caused extensive flooding damages to the build. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

SURF CITY — Earlier this week State Senator Bill Rabon announced more than $400,000 in Golden LEAF Foundation grants that will be awarded to two post-Florence recovery projects in Surf City.

A majority of the funds will be used for the engineering and design of the town’s new town hall that will be built on a 3-acre plot located on the mainland side of town, next to the Publix grocery store. The land was donated by longtime local property owner Allan Sullivan in December after Hurricane Florence flooded the first floor of the original town hall building on Topsail Island.

Another $100,000 will go toward repairs of equipment and bathroom facilities at the oceanfront Nevla R. Albury Park, located about a mile-and-a-half north of the old town hall.

RELATED: Surf City receives land donation from local property owner for new town hall

Reached by phone on Friday afternoon, the announcement from Rabon’s office caught Surf City Mayor Doug Medlin by surprise.

“We applied for those grants but we had not received the reward letter or anything about it,” Medlin said.

Golden Leaf President Dan Gerlach said that delayed communications to municipal authorities happens from time to time.

“We let state policymakers know because they’re the custodians of the state’s money,” Gerlach said.

According to Gerlach, Surf City officials have already scheduled a grants management meeting to outline how the money will be spent. While the park repairs are more clear-cut, he said the $315,000 allocated for the new town hall is a “last money in” approach meant to fund the project in ways that FEMA may not.

“The design and engineering [of the building] is probably not something FEMA will cover. We wanted to be sure that it did get covered so they can progress on this while they wait for FEMA resolution on the other costs,” Gerlach said.

He also said an additional $90,000 will be used for Burgaw’s Cape Fear Community College campus as part of a more traditional approach to Golden LEAF’s economic development-focused grant model. It will go towards a production technician program to ensure that workers are trained in various capacities so that “colleges can meet the needs of local employees,” Gerlach said.

According to its website, Golden LEAF was created “to receive 50 percent of the annual payments made by cigarette manufacturers to North Carolina under the historic 1999 Master Settlement Agreement that included 46 states. State leaders at the time recognized this rare opportunity to create an organization and build an endowment dedicated to meaningful economic transformation across our state, rather than simply spend the money every year in the state budget.”

According to Rabon’s office, the following amounts will be allocated to the 3 Pender County projects:

  • $315,000 will go to the engineering and design of a new town hall building in Surf City’s town hall.
  • $100,000 will go to repairs of equipment and bathroom facilities at the Nelva R. Albury Park in Surf City, damaged as a result of Hurricane Florence.
  • $90,814 will go to the Cape Fear Community College – Pender County to increase the capacity of its Production Technician Program in order to meet the growing employment demands of the area’s businesses.

Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com

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