Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Were there any “promises” made, restrictions on use of the state grant?

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During last week’s Graham city council discussion, Graham mayor Jennifer Talley repeatedly said that she wanted the stamped crosswalks in downtown Graham because that’s the purpose for which she had obtained the state grant.

“When I initially went to get this grant,” she told the council, “that’s what I said was that we wanted pedestrian crosswalks.  So I feel somewhat obligated to stick to what I asked for.

“There’s not a restriction [on the grant],” she acknowledged, “but I just feel obligated to say this is what I was trying to do.”

However, neither state senator Amy Galey, nor the text of the announcement of the award to the city, indicate any condition or restriction on the use of the grant.

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State senator Amy Galey

The Alamance News questioned city manager Megan Garner this week on why the city council had waited so long to discuss the grant that was actually awarded immediately after the General Assembly’s adoption of the state budget last fall.

The city received confirmation from senator Galey on October 25, 2023 that money was included in the budget for a grant for Graham.  The city also received an received official notification on December 11, 2023, according to an email furnished to the newspaper in response to a public records request.

Yet the item did not appear on the council’s agenda until its May 14 meeting, and again last week, on June 11.

“I knew there was likely to be overlap between the budget and how to allocate the $600,000,” Garner said in answer to the newspaper’s inquiry about why such a delay in scheduling a discussion on the use of the grant.

The description in that December 11 notification says, “Provides a directed grant to the City of Graham for downtown revitalization.”

Galey was asked last week whether the use of the grant to help stabilize Sesquicentennial Park would be allowable within the purposes for which she had designated the grant for Graham.

“When I met with Mayor Talley in 2022,” Galey said, “we talked about a number of needs for the City of Graham including water and sewer needs as well as downtown improvements.  I believe that ‘downtown enhancement projects’ [the term the city used in its agenda packet] would cover a number of items, including stamped crosswalks, which Mayor Talley did specifically mention.

Galey added, with respect to the Sesquicentennial Park, “We did not talk about the sinking foundation of the park, because to my knowledge it was not an issue at that time.”

Galey also noted, “I can only offer information about what was discussed, and am not equipped to give an opinion about mayor/council deliberations.  I would defer to the city attorney or maybe the city finance officer questions about how to decide how to spend the funds.”

When councilman Joey Parsons first raised the question of whether some of the money could be used for Sesquicentennial Park, during a discussion of the $600,000 downtown enhancement grant, Talley responded, “That’s not what I asked for.”

Later that topic would be raised also by downtown businessman Griffin McClure and Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. Talley again repeatedly dismissed the idea of using any portion of the grant for that purpose.


Read the newspaper’s editorial page views on issues relative to the potential use of the $600,000 state grant: https://alamancenews.com/state-grant-dollars-are-grahams-not-its-mayors/

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