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City fires grant official; Harris named interim

Dawn Harris
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Dawn Harris, interim grants administrator for Elizabeth City, discusses improvements to Coast Guard Park at Thursday's meeting of Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. Harris replaces Wade Nichols who was terminated last week.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, April 21, 2017

Elizabeth City has fired grant administrator and former Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. director Wade Nichols.

Assistant City Manager Angela Cole said Community Development Director Matthew Schelly fired Nichols last week. She cited the reason as “increasing concerns” with his ability to manage multiple city grant projects. Among other projects, the city is trying to win grant funding for redevelopment of Southern Hotel and major improvements to Coast Guard Park, both located in the downtown.

Cole said that Dawn Harris, a long-serving planning department staffer, is now acting as interim grant administrator. She’s experienced in grant writing and familiar with the projects, Cole said. The city will focus on getting its current grant projects submitted and then try to get a permanent director in place, she explained. The city will advertise the position internally before potentially advertising it externally, she added.

Nichols, now in his 60s, came to the city from Mount Airy in August 2015. Despite his background in downtown development, the city ultimately switched him to grant administration after grant administrator Morgan Jethro left the city for another job. Though moved out of his original position, Nichols claimed then that grant writing could better match his skills. Former downtown businesswoman Deborah Malenfant replaced Nichols as ECDI director in October.

Nichols was paid $45,899 in both his positions with the city, according to Cole. Cole also said that Harris will receive a 5-percent pay bump to her salary — a standard percentage for the added responsibilities of an interim director. Her annual salary would work out to $39,124, up from $37,274.

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