Fort Mill's new mayor Danny Funderburk is reaching out, seeking volunteers for committees he wants to create and for non-profit organizations casting about for grants.
"During the campaign, people had conversations with me about their intention to get involved," Funderburk said. "I'd love to see it work. You get the volunteers, get these teams established with expertise, call out to the non-profits, hook volunteers up with them and you get some things done."
Funderburk calls his community outreach "a two-pronged plan":
• He's asking residents to fill out a volunteer form at town hall, listing areas of interest and expertise. The town has three existing commissions: the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Historical Review Board.
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"Over the next three months, I hope to establish more commissions, boards and task teams so more people can participate," he said. "We'd like to have a pool of names, so as we put them together, we'll have a good pool of qualified people who can put their skills to work."
• He's seeking non-profit organizations that might qualify for grants for which the town alone doesn't, especially in the areas of reaching at-risk youth and revitalizing neighborhoods.
"A lot of times, we find out about grants and funds, and when we make the inquiry, they basically look at Fort Mill and say things are going too well in Fort Mill," he said. "They say these moneys are for other towns."
The town would use its resources "in any way we could," he said. That might include helping fill out the grant applications, navigate the system, determine where money is available.
"If they will take the lead, we can help grease the chute," Funderburk said. "I think we can help them navigate the system. If people have never gone through the process, I think the town could be a partner."
Town Planning Director Andy Merriman said currently, "we just shoot for grants we know we can get because we know we're qualified."
Fort Mill has in the recent past won an approximate $600,000 matching transportation enhancement grant to make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly. Another $350,000 in federal dollars has provisionally been approved for "air quality enhancement" to add a turn lane at U.S. 21 and S.C. 160.
"If working with non-profits is going to help through public-private relationships to get moneys for everybody, those avenues need to be explored," Merriman said.
The Fort Mill Housing Authority already manages three non-profit agencies that help people with needs financial and other:
• Community Housing, with the town's assistance, is helping develop the Avery Lakes community for mixed-income families and people 55 and older; the program includes down-payment assistance for qualified persons.
• Fort Mill Housing Services helps qualified people in York and Lancaster counties make down payments and assists with purchase and closing costs.
• Holly Ridge Apartments provides apartment assistance for people with special needs.
Grazier Rhea, community development director for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, said grant guidelines changed this year and made it more difficult to obtain money to assist people such as seniors and children.
"We used to be able to do senior centers," she said. "We did the Children's Attention Home. We can't do them anymore. Now, it's more work force-related."
Rhea, who works with grant applications, said she hopes to meet with the new mayor and discuss possibilities.
"I think the mayor is trying to grasp those options out there," Merriman said. "Any private entity that would have an interest. How do we benefit taxpayers and customers?"