Fort Mill scored big recently when it was awarded a $500,000 community block grant to help pay for improvements in the Paradise community. It was no easy feat and town officials deserve a lot of credit for sticking with a process that began last year.
With a major assist from the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, Fort Mill had to gather community input and make a case for why it deserved to win the competitive grant over less affluent communities. Block grants are federally-funded through HUD and administered by states. In S.C. the state Department of Commerce decides which cities receives the money.
The town also put up its own money by making a commitment to spend $68,076 on improvements. York County is kicking in another $75,000 toward the projects. Improvements the grant will finance include new sidewalks along Steele Street, water line improvements on Steele and Joe Louis streets, two new neighborhood signs and demolition of four vacant, dilapidated properties.
At several public meetings held in Paradise before Fort Mill submitted its application, residents identified needs, including all of the ones specified in the grant proposal. Residents also said money was needed to help homeowners make repairs or cosmetic upgrades to their property. Although officials were quick to say it was unlikely they could secure grant money to fix private homes, the COG did arrange for volunteers with Habitat for Humanity to come to Paradise and spend the day making repairs.
Much credit is also due the residents on the grant committee. They devoted countless hours to a process that requires endurance and perseverance. It wasn’t easy gathering a cross-section of residents or get them to open up in front of strangers about what they considered to be lacking in the community. Everyone involved had to be prepared to do a lot of waiting, which can be especially difficult knowing that all the hard work could have been for naught.
It’s a shame the infrastructure in and around Paradise has become so deteriorated and it begs the question: Has Paradise suffered from neglect for decades because it’s a predominantly black community? We certainly hope not and what’s most important now is Paradise is getting the attention it needs.
Something that should be considered is that no one from the neighborhood sits on town council and we can’t recall the last time someone from Paradise ran for a seat.
We don’t want to suggest that someone from Paradise look to unseat Councilman Larry Huntley, who represents Ward 3. But if he decides not to seek re-election, or the next time an at-large seat is up for grabs, we’d like to see someone from the community run.
As good as that news is about Fort Mill winning the block grant, there’s no good reason why Paradise was neglected all these years. Perhaps with a greater voice on council, it won’t happen again.