CANTON — Cherokee County has agreed to pitch in more than $200,000 to back a developer hoping to build a 74-unit low-income senior living facility in Canton.
The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in its meeting Tuesday night to dole out $225,000 in unused grant funds to Wendover Housing Partners, which is planning to build a senior living facility on Marietta Highway in Canton.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said the company is in the process of applying for grants for the complex from the state, and county backing in such projects can help grants be approved.
If approved, Wendover’s facility would be on the Etowah River south of Canton Elementary and will house senior citizens with low and moderate incomes, Cooper said.
The money for the county’s contribution will come from the Senior Home Repair Program, which offers repairs for seniors who have code violations or hazards such as lead paint or asbestos in their homes.
Cherokee County will only pay out the money when or if Wendover moves forward with the project, and Cooper said he has asked that the county’s contribution be given at the end of the project.
Cherokee County has more than $500,000 in funding for the Senior Home Repair Program that has yet to be used, because the county has recently had trouble finding seniors who qualify for the services, Cooper said.
“The issues that we’re discovering are that many of the homes are being transferred to their children and therefore they don’t qualify, (or) there is very little equity in the home, or that the repairs to the home far exceed the $40,000 available for each home,” Cooper said.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said that if the unspent funding, which the county receives in grants, isn’t spent it will be lost.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens added that because of sequestration, Cherokee County will not be receiving any funding for the program in 2014.
Johnston said there is a need for an income-based senior living facility in Cherokee County.
“I know there’s a need for affordable, comfortable, safe, decent housing for older people basically living on Social Security,” Johnston said.
“I’m not opposed to the idea. I wouldn’t necessarily want to tax our local citizens to do that, but if we have grant funds (that are) unused otherwise, I don’t see why we couldn’t pursue this.”
Besides helping seniors, there is something else the county could get out of the deal, Johnston said.
“We need trail frontage along the river (there),” he said. “And I don’t know if (Canton) has ever been able to nail that down. If we’re ever going to have trail network like I dream along the river, the first leg of it is the one that would come right through here.”
The board approved to contribute the funds to Wendover with the condition that they give the county an easement for a trail along the river.
During the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, the board also:
• Unanimously approved $10,000 in additional funding for the Cherokee County Animal Shelter. Cherokee County received this money from the Mary Jean Payne Charitable Trust;
• Unanimously approved a mutual aid agreement between the Pickens County’s fire department with Cherokee County’s. Cooper said the help from Pickens County will be particularly beneficial to residents in a north-central Cherokee area and will help the area in an upcoming ISO review;
• Voted unanimously to approve a purchase order to Contech Engineering Solutions in the amount of $34,046 for piping for work on Roscoe Collett Road; and
• Discussed purchasing 1.86 acres of property from a resident south of Univeter Road in the amount of $125,000.
The board discussed that the reason for considering the purchase was because land owned by the county, and next to this land, was causing water runoff issues for the land owner. The board also discussed condemning the land or putting in a water retention system on the county’s land as other possible options to the plan.