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City of Wilmington leaders approve business incentives to bring over 1,000 jobs to the region

Council members also held a lengthy discussion about the ongoing issues experienced by the Wilmington Housing Authority
Wilmington City Council approves $700 in business incentives
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 6:10 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington City Council leaders approved $700,000 in economic incentive grants for four businesses eyeing the Cape Fear region at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Economic Development Incentives for four projects

The public hearing for the economic incentive grants was held open from the February 15 meeting to include some updated numbers. The grants are for four projects, totaling nearly $700,000, that are expected to create around 1,000 jobs and bring $125 million of capital investment to the region. The projects have also submitted requests for funding to the New Hanover County Commissioners.

Scott Satterfield of Wilmington Business Development presented the four projects to city council members.

The resolutions for all four projects passed unanimously.

Wilmington Housing Authority update

The Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) operates 1,246 housing authority units, and a Housing Voucher Program where 2,070 vouchers have been allocated to 1350 families for what used to be known as Section 8 Housing. About 80 families are seeking housing in this program.

Currently, WHA is lacking leadership, funding, and properties to house the families displaced to hotels. A total of 155 families are displaced right now. In the past year, 50 families have been re-housed.

Approximately 1,000 housing choice voucher applications have been received since the Housing Choice Voucher reopened today with revised eligibility rules.

WHA has applied for an emergency grant from HUD for $13 million because the current situation of temporary housing and per diem vouchers is not sustainable. Discussion revealed there are no guarantees with the grant funding and the $13 million is to be spread across a larger region with only $7 million allocated to this area, $5 million of which has already been earmarked for other projects.

To date, 112 out of 150 apartments are being remediated because of mold issues. The authority needs more funding to pay for more contractors to speed up the process.

When asked by the mayor what could be done to help, board chair Al Sharp responded:

“We like you to help us find construction firms who are willing to work with us... We need your help seeking relief from HUD and some kind of commitment, even if it isn’t all now, it could be a two-year commitment we could build on... We need you to work with us to keep the citizens informed that the problem is a dislocation problem. The families are suffering by being in short-term hotels and motels. That dislocation disrupts family patterns and we are very concerned about those people.”

Intermediate actions: A search for a new CEO is in process and now, the housing authority board has a pool of candidates to consider over the next couple of months. The group is forming community partnerships to replace household furnishings and it hopes to re-home families from hotels into alternative intermediate housing soon.

Long-term plans: The board hopes to receive the emergency grant to fund operations and hopes families will be re-housed permanently. Dehumidifiers are being installed in properties to manage moisture.

Towards the end of 2021, Wilmington Housing Authority was plagued by mold complaints from residents and nearly 80 families were displaced and placed in temporary accommodation while the authority addressed the issues. It is believed the problem began after Hurricane Florence damaged roofs.

Other business

Council members voted to appoint Interim Chief Jon “Steve” Mason to the job on a permanent basis. Chief Mason has served in an interim capacity since September 2021, following the retirement of longtime Fire Chief Buddy Martinette.

“City Council’s decision to appoint a 31-year veteran of the Wilmington Fire Department as its new Fire Chief is a testimony to the city’s efforts to retain and develop high-quality talent. I congratulate Chief Mason on his permanent elevation to this role as a fitting reflection of his track record of service and leadership and an expression of confidence in the city’s Fire Department,” said City Manager Tony Caudle.

Chief Mason has served as Wilmington Fire Department’s Deputy Fire Chief since June of 2017. He previously served in the roles of Chief of Operations, Shift Commander, Training Officer, and Safety Officer. Mason began his career in the Fire Service in 1987 at Wrightsville Beach Fire Department, serving three years there before starting his career with Wilmington in 1990.

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