Sebring eyes $750K grant for expansion
JOE SEELIGSEBRING - There haven't been too many exciting construction projects in Sebring since the economy tanked, but plans for the Newsom Eye Surgery Center to be built at 4211 U.S. 27 N., across from the former Love Bugs 24/7 gas station, took a step forward Tuesday night.
Published: September 6, 2012
Published: September 6, 2012
Dr. T. Hunter Newsom proposed to build a three-story, 20,000-square-foot building to house a new surgical center and office, with a parking lot on three sides and entrance from U.S. 27, on a 440-foot-by-230-foot lot.
City Administrator Scott Noethlich said the exciting thing about the project is the creation of new jobs, both permanent and in the construction phase.
"It's a rather large building," he said. "There are going to be a lot of jobs created in the process."
The Sebring City Council voted unanimously 4-0 on first reading of an ordinance to annex the property into the city. Councilman Bud Whitlock was absent from the meeting.
Before the vote, City Councilman John Clark said he had a problem with the agreement to annex because it was not notarized and was missing the addresses of the witnesses.
"This is the first reading," said City Attorney Bob Swaine. "You can decide to table it or you can pass it on first and decline to pass it on second if you haven't gotten the better version of the request to annex."
Next the council on first reading passed an ordinance to change the zoning from County B-2 to City PD and land-use designation of the property from County Commercial to City Commercial.
The council agreed to the concept of applying for a $750,000 Small Cities Community Development Block Grant to fund the extension of city water and sewer to the property as well as road improvements on U.S. 27 to access the property.
The application process is contingent upon a few things happening first, including final zoning changes, a final annexation vote Sept 18, public hearings and several other issues.
There were several qualifying categories for the grant and Newsom's project qualified under the economic development category for infrastructure improvements, said CDBG consultant Fred Fox, of Fred Fox Enterprises Inc.
"For each activity that is proposed, at least 70 percent of the funds must benefit low and moderate income persons," Fox wrote in his agenda item.
The grant requires a certain amount of job creation, he said.
"They would have to provide forms on each of the employees who took the jobs that they created, making sure at least 51 percent of the people they hired were members of low- to moderate-income households at least a year before they were hired by Newsom," Fox said. "Also on the front end, at least 51 percent of the positions would require no more than a high school education."
Newsome has indicated that would not be a problem, Fox said.
In a previous story, Carl Cool, of Cool and Cobb Engineering, said this project was expected to provide 80 jobs.
Robin Hinote, acting Community Redevelopment Agency executive director, said Tuesday she believed "at least 22 permanent new jobs" were required.
Doing the math at 51 percent of an estimated total of 80 jobs is more than 40 new low- to moderate-income jobs.
The amount of funding available has been reduced by 15 percent by Congress last year and by another 8 percent this year, Fox said, so the pot is getting smaller.
He urged the city to get this grant submitted as soon as possible before Oct. 1, when the grant cycle runs out.
Fox said he was also working with city staff for a grant for a drainage project for Washington Heights during the 2013 grant cycle, he said, but that would be a separate application.
However, before any of it could happen, Fox advised the council that state law had changed regarding the appointment of a Citizens Advisory Task Force, which must be appointed prior to the first public hearing on the application, which was held Tuesday night.
The Community Development Block Grant process requires that a Citizens Participation Plan be approved as part of the city's grant application.
The council unanimously approved a task force board consisting of Robert Saffold, Rob Horne, Steve Swan, Cheryl Humphrey, Bob Rapp, Mark Gose and Mark Stewart, along with Development Director Jim Polatty as a city staff member.
They were scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday, in the city council chambers at 368 S. Commerce Ave.
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