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Government shutdown stalls Middlesex grant application

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MIDDLESEX — Town commissioners approved an application on Monday for a U.S. Department of Agriculture public works grant for new equipment — once the USDA reopens for business.

Mayor Lu Harvey Lewis asked the board to support an application for $82,923 worth of equipment but said the grant administrator is on furlough due to the record-breaking partial shutdown of the federal government. Until the administrator returns to work, he has no way to submit the proposal.

He said the project would combine a $50,000 outright grant with a low-interest, seven-year loan for the rest. If the eventual grant is approved, he said, “it’s another win for the town.”

The requested USDA funding will be for four major pieces of equipment: a new Bandit chipper with box, $39,023; a 100-KW, three-phase generator for well 5, $25,000; a Massey Ferguson GC 1705 4-by-4 tractor with 60-inch belly mower, $10,900; and a zero turn 52-54 inch mower, $8,000.

The chipper “is something we desperately need,” Lewis said.

Commissioners approved the grant application unanimously after little discussion.

After the meeting, the mayor was optimistic the USDA would be open again for business as soon as next week so that he can submit the grant request. The town received a similar grant last year.

“The $50,000 really frees up money for local governments,” he said, and noted that other grants were possible depending on the competition for them.

In other business during the short session Monday, commissioners were informed that the Nash County Board of Commissioners last week approved a design contract with the Wooten Company for engineering services for the Middlesex Corporate Centre infrastructure improvements. The negotiated contract agreement of $215,000 was less than half the allowed $453,200 under the project grants.

The improvements will include 3,000 linear feet of roadway, 3,000 linear feet of eight-inch water main, 3,500 linear fee of 12-inch water main, 3,050 feet of sewer and a 250,000-gallon elevated water storage tank.

Following state law, the board also voted to write off unpaid property taxes and interest, a total of $843.30, for the year 2008.

In its last item of business, the board voted without comment to accept the resignation of part-time police officer Steven Jordan.

The town’s new public comment policy went into effect this month, but no members of the public were present.