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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Public input sought for possible grant

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A public hearing on a possible planning grant for the Ferrum community is set for Tuesday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ferrum Volunteer Fire Department.

Last month, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors voted to apply for a planning grant for community improvements in Ferrum, and residents are invited to provide local input on community development and housing needs.

The public's help is needed at this meeting to determine what the proposed grant may fund, according to county Administrator Rick Huff.

Supervisor Bobby Thompson will open the meeting, which will feature speakers to address the development of the grant with the citizens, Huff said.

Possible grant analyses may focus on housing rehabilitation needs and upgrades and extensions of public water and sewer, Huff said. There are also public safety issues, including a pedestrian bridge over the Norfolk-Southern railroad, sidewalks, crosswalks and drainage improvements.

The county has mailed questionnaires to Ferrum residents and encourages everyone to complete the questionnaires and return them by Tuesday, Aug. 6. The questionnaires address property concerns and public infrastructure needs, Huff said. Questionnaires will also be available at the public hearing.

Holding the public meeting is the first significant step in applying for planning grant funding from the VA- Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and residents are encouraged to attend, Huff said. Residents may also call Lisa Cooper, county senior planner, at 483-3027 to discuss community concerns that may be addressed by the grant. In addition, Bonnie Johnson, a community development consultant, has recently begun working with the county staff to initiate the planning grant project, and may be reached at 483-3030.

The county will undertake other planning steps in order to complete a planning grant application with DHCD (such as field surveys). The application should be ready for a vote by supervisors in August or September.

The county undertook a Community Development Block Grant project in 2003-2004 in Ferrum, which addressed blight, utility extensions and upgrades, and housing rehabilitation. A TEA-21 grant was undertaken in 2004 to address improved pedestrian access, adding sidewalks and pedestrian bridges along Route 40.

However, there were insufficient grant funds available at that time to provide a pedestrian bridge across the Norfolk-Southern railroad tracks. Improvement of pedestrian access across the railroad remains a concern.

In addition to the residents of the area, the county hopes that area agencies will join the planning process to assure its success. Partners with the county may include West Piedmont Planning District Commission, VDOT, Ferrum Water and Sewage Authority, STEP, Ferrum College and Norfolk-Southern.

The Ferrum village population increased from 1,313 to 2,043, a 55.6 percent increase, between 2000 and 2010. A concern is providing the appropriate capacity of public safety infrastructure and other public services to adequately serve the area, and any anticipated growth. Where housing or other community needs exist, it is possible that they may be addressed by the planning grant and a future project grant.

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