A City Council housing incentive grant of $150,000 to help pay to build a new house in the Berkshire area in the southeastern part of Rocky Mount was recently approved, but not without a vote of no by one council member and another council member choosing not to vote either way.

On the agenda for the council’s June 13 regular meeting was the six-figure amount for the Berkshire Acres Community Association for a future single-family residential home at 701 Lincoln Drive.

When the item came up during the meeting, Councilman Richard Joyner, in whose ward the Berkshire area is located, made the motion in favor of awarding the grant, with a second from Councilman Andre Knight.

Councilman Lige Daughtridge stated his intention to vote no, saying he believed the item is worthy but sharing concerns stated earlier during the public input phase of the meeting by Councilman-elect Tom Harris and by resident Adrienne Copland.

Councilwoman Chris Miller, who was participating via teleconferencing, said “abstain” after her name was twice called by Deputy City Clerk Kim Batts during the roll call seeking each council member’s vote.

Mayor Sandy Roberson, as chairman of the council meeting, made clear Miller’s abstention would be recorded as a yes vote.

“I understand,” Miller said.

Councilmen Reuben Blackwell, who was participating via teleconferencing, and Councilman T.J. Walker both voted yes. Councilman W.B. Bullock had left the council chamber.

None of the other council members present or participating by teleconferencing commented or responded to Harris and Copland prior to the vote.

During the public input phase of the meeting, Harris, who July 11 will be sworn in to succeed Bullock, said he hopes the city works with the Berkshire Acres Community Association.

Harris said that while he does not know how the proceeds are going to be dispersed, he hopes not all of the municipality’s $150,000 are dispersed before the association uses some of the association’s available resources to cover additional requests that are made.

Copland, who fixes local older structures, told the council, “I think we need to rethink this grant of $150,000 to Berkshire Acres altogether.”

Copland told the council the Berkshire Acres Community Association has already been allocated $70,000 in grants, $40,000 of which she and others have no idea what the latter amount was used for because neither a project nor any terms were ever listed.

Documents attached as part of the council agenda state the association is proposing to budget a total of slightly more than $221,000 to construct a 1,522-square-foot house at 701 Lincoln.

Copland pointed out the association originally claimed $150,000 would be the total cost of the proposed project.

Documents attached as part of the June 13 City Council agenda show the association’s proposed budget listed $150,000 from the City of Rocky Mount to be a funding source.

The documents as part of the agenda also show the association’s proposed budget listed $100,000 would be coming from “other sources” but neither provided the identities nor the names of those sources.

Of the association’s proposed budget of slightly more than $221,000, Copland told the council, “It does not include their acquisition costs or demolition fees, does not state that they have already been given $70,000 and their listed expenses aren’t complete.

“So their total project cost will go higher,” she said. “All signs point to them coming back for more money because they don’t know what they’re doing. I think you should vote no.”

Documents as part of the June 13 City Council agenda said that regarding the funding schedule, there will be an initial advance payment by the municipality of $10,000, followed by a payment of $50,000, a payment of $50,000 and a payment of $40,000.

The documents said that Mason Builders of Gaston will be the contractor. The documents also said that construction must be complete by Nov. 30, that an occupancy certificate must be ready by the same day and that the closing on the house has to be complete by Jan. 31, 2023.

Documents as part of the council agenda said the proposed agreement with the Berkshire Acres Community Association underwent a vetting process after the City Council majority voted Jan. 10 to appropriate a total of $805,000 in council housing grants.

The housing incentive grant program became a focus of scrutiny during the Jan. 10 council regular meeting. That is when the council, in a 6-1 vote, gave the OK to put $805,000 in position to help improve housing conditions in Rocky Mount’s inner-city neighborhoods. Daughtridge cast the lone no vote.

During the public comment period prior to the vote, speaker after speaker gave pointed concerns about the item.

During the subsequent discussion by the council members, Walker emphasized that there is a council subcommittee and said he and fellow subcommittee members go through a series of processes to select groups to receive grants.

The Telegram backtracked and found out that the subcommittee met Jan. 6. The Telegram did not receive a notice of that subcommittee meeting and never knew about the subcommittee having met until the Jan. 10 council regular meeting.

Attorney Beth Soja, a counsel to the N.C. Press Association, has told the Telegram that the subcommittee is a public body, that there needs to be proper notice of a subcommittee meeting and that the subcommittee is required to keep minutes or a recording that suffices for minutes.

The Telegram found out there were neither minutes nor audio or video recordings of the Jan. 6 subcommittee meeting.

The subcommittee was formed in 2008 by the then-council after a motion by then-Councilman Lamont Wiggins and a second by Blackwell to evaluate expenses and recommend awards of Housing Incentive Grant Program funds.

The subcommittee started out comprised of Knight, who has continued to serve on the panel; Daughtridge’s predecessor, Tom Rogers; and Walker’s predecessor, Lois Watkins.

Walker and Joyner have been serving with Knight on the panel.