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Greenville Town Council: water woes in the food desert

On Monday, April 13, Greenville's Town Council came together for their monthly meeting. After the minutes were approved, the council welcomed petitions from the public. First to address the council was Ray Foskey. He lives on Ray Charles Ave. and expressed his concern with cars traveling too fast through the neighborhood, stating children and animals play near the streets. Foskey requested the council look into installing speed bumps, noting there aren't even speed limit signs on the road, which adds to an extremely hazardous situation. Public Works Supervisor, JC Fead, clarified that there are indeed speed limit signs on Ray Charles Ave., however Foskey argued that, while there used to be signs, they aren't there anymore. A solution to the problem evaded, however Fead agreed to check out the situation. After Foskey petitioned the council, Matilda Thomas approached the podium. She asked what the procedure is for someone who needs their water turned on but hasn't paid the previous month's charges. The council informed her there is no payment plan policy and that the only way for one's water to be turned on is to have the bill paid in full. Next, citizen Brittany Brown approached the podium and inquired about the procedure for reserving the park, as well as reserving water use. Her concern was that, at a car wash fundraiser the previous Saturday, her group had been instructed to move to a different location because they had not properly reserved the park, nor had permission to use its water. Brown's goal was to find out what the proper procedure was for reserving park functions and if there was a way to gain access to the park's water for events such as car washes. Town Clerk Kim Reams informed Brown that there was a park reservation form which would need to be filled out in addition to paying a $75 fee for using the park's pavilion, however the council would need to address the issue of water use as the guidelines were unclear. The board decided to place the item on the next meeting's agenda to decide procedure and/or fees for public water use at the park. The last citizens to address the council were Stuart and Denise Hamilton, owners of the old B&B Supermarket in Greenville. The couple is currently pursuing a grant so that they can make the building operable. The grant would help them finish the store, provide fresh foods and at least 18 jobs to the community. They are applying for the grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services and are hoping for success. According to Mr. Hamilton, Greenville has a greater shot, as it is considered a food desert. [Any rural area located 10 miles from a grocery store qualifies as a food desert.] According to the couple, the store is in good condition except for a properly working refrigeration unit, electricity and some needed work on the ceiling. The grant would help get the store up and running, as well as provide funds for an employee force and goods. The Hamiltons also plan to add a food processing unit so fresh veggies from local farmers can be packaged and sold at the grocery store. According to the Hamiltons, the Gainesville University of Florida branch of the USDA has expressed much interest. The couple's wish was to get the Town of Greenville on board-- they requested the council draft a letter of support to accompany the grant application. The council unanimously approved the letter. Next, it was time for business. Acting Town Manager, Jim Parrish, approached the podium and called to order a public hearing to discuss the Community Development Block (CDBG) Grant. The grant provides funding for a vast array of needs and allows communities to decide how to best distribute the funds. According to hud.gov, CDBG allocates funds to cities and urban communities that help with everything from “improving public facilities to producing affordable housing. Each year, CDBG funds are distributed to state and local governments according to their population, poverty and other housing variables.” The Town of Greenville has expressed interest in the grant in particular because of the need for a new sewer plant as well as other improvements. As part of the grant application process, it is required that a community's local government provide them with the necessary information and receive their feedback and input. “One of the first steps in the process is to hold the first of two required public hearings,” said Parrish. “The one on tonight's schedule is to receive any comments from the general public on what they perceive as needs of the community.” Parrish informed the council and citizens about how the CDBG grant works and also listed some of the Community Task Force's ideas for where Greenville needs improvement. The Community Task Force is a group of citizens who volunteered to sit on a council and discuss the community's best interests as part of CDBG requirements. The task force listed street improvements, safe drinking water and youth recreational opportunities as places where the community could use funding. However, Parrish stressed that wastewater treatment was the council's top priority. Once the floor was open for discussion, citizen and Community Task Force member, Brenda Graham, noted she had heard a request from a community member for a Fire Station on the north side of town. Parrish continued to answer questions and hear comments from the public. When the public hearing was complete, the council switched gears and addressed the second agenda item: a fair housing informational session. Acting Town Manager, Jim Parrish took the floor again. The informational session is a requirement for Greenville to receive points in the application for the CDBG grant. Parrish passed around hand-outs to citizens and councilmembers educating them on the basic facts about the Fair Housing Act, as well as Greenville's Fair Housing notice, which states that it is their policy “to promote, through fair, orderly and lawful procedure, the opportunity for each person so desiring to obtain housing of such person's choice in the town without regard to one's race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, sex, familial status, marital status, handicap or age.” The last agenda item included the discussion and possible action regarding the contract with Timothy Day for Town Manager services. After the board reviewed the contract, they unanimously voted to approve the contract on the condition that changes were made and wording added. If Day accepts the contract after made changes, he will be Greenville's new Town Manager on the condition a drug test is passed. Greenville Town Council meets the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at City Hall. If you wish to petition the council and make your voice heard, call (850) 948-2251 and schedule your appearance at the next meeting. City Hall is located at 154 SW Old Mission Avenue, Greenville.

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