Commission Discusses EIC Grant Application

County Commission Chairman Bob Kirby

Chowan County Commission Chairman Bob Kirby had some questions and observations about the Economic Improvement Council’s pending grant application.

“My review kind of goes on and on and there’s quite a few things here that I find to be very very concerning.” Kirby said during Monday’s commission meeting.

Based in Edenton, EIC is a multi-service human services organization that serves 10 counties, including Chowan and Perquimans.

Annually, when EIC applies for a Community Services Block Grant to fund its operations, each county commission is tasked with acknowledging that the EIC is seeking that grant. No commission has any power to approve the EIC grant application nor the does any county have to provide matching grant funding.

Because EIC covers 10 counties that would be discussing the matter Monday, there was no one representing EIC attending Monday’s commission meeting to address concerns about a $21 million grant application.

EIC Executive Director Landon Mason delivers an annual presentation to each county commission within the first quarter of the new year.

If there are to be any questions from any commission or commissioner, they are to be submitted in writing to the EIC – questions that are attached to the grant application. Commissioners said they would be submitting questions regarding this year’s grant application that is to be submitted to the state by or before Jan 15.

Kirby disputed the grant application’s listing of education as its top priority as being a major need for the community.

“I think we are doing an excellent job of addressing that as a need and yet here’s a block grant application that says its a problem,” he said. “I would like someone from EIC to stand before us and explain why. Why are we telling the state that this is an issue… And it goes on and on. I can by all means submit all my questions in writing and there are quite a few. I agree with Dr. Ellis Lawrence (Chowan County Commissioner) that this is an important grant. We should be giving it the justification it deserves.”

Kirby recalled how several EIC employees protested in late August about what they said were unfair and unannounced cuts to their pay and benefits.

A story published in early September within the Chowan Herald reported how Mason claimed that there had been no pay or benefit cuts. Mason said EIC had made an error in the pay of four Head Start employees but the mistake had been corrected. Mason said a “system error” that caused the salary discrepancies was caught during an internal review and resolved on Aug. 29.

“There was a bunch of mess with that – (Head Start) teachers were claiming that their pay got cut and how they used to be on salary but are no longer on salary,” Kirby said. “I’m concerned that this organization might not be representing the community the way they need to be. That bothers me immensely.”

Kirby also noted discrepancies within the application such as listing EIC Board of Directors member Glorious Elliott as a Chowan County Commission – she’s not a member of the commission.

“That’s wrong and that should definitely be corrected,” he said.

In other news, the public is invited to provide input on the John A. Holmes High School project.

Both commissioners Alex Kehayes and Larry McLaughlin expressed their desire to ensure that citizen input is welcome and that the die has not been cast fait accompli for a master site plan.

“Citizens will be able to manipulate, move and see ultimately what they would suggest as the best master site plan,” Edenton-Chowan Schools Superintendent Michael Sasscer said during his presentation as he reassured commissioners about the importance of public input. “Using the input from those conversations, architects would go back in February to design what they’ve heard and what they’ve collected from the community then put forward that design from February 15 to 26 back in front of the citizens to gather more feedback about what they’ve created.”

Perhaps that suggestion is to move the 1929 Boy Scout cabin or find new home for Purser Field, maybe find a spot for a swimming pool that serves not only the Aces but the community.

Sasscer said it would be “exciting how someone may be able to look back at their suggestion and how the plan made it a reality.”

Community input session will be held January 20 at Northern Recreation Center from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Sessions will also be held January 27 at John A. Holmes High School from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The architect will meet with the faculty of John A. Holmes High School on February 10. Citizens will also be given the opportunity to share their vision through a survey.

Another session featuring a gallery of ideas and possible plans can be viewed between Feb. 15 and Feb. 26.

The architect team will compile design boards that graphically show what was discussed through the visioning sessions and the results of the survey, as well as any other pertinent information they have collected from the community.

These boards will be set up at a public space (to be determined), and will allow the community to come through, at their leisure, and preview the project. A comment box will be provided.

To register for January 20 or 27, please call Sarah Hare at the district office, 252-482-4436.

Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com