By Carol Vaughn —
Onancock is applying for a $978,000 Community Development Block Grant which, if awarded, will pay for improvements to the town’s northeast neighborhood.
Eric Luchansky of the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission presented an overview of the project to the town council at its March 22 meeting.
Improvements would include demolition of six abandoned structures, rehabilitation of 10 occupied homes, lighting and drainage improvements, debris removal, and installation of sidewalks from Kerr Street to Boundary Avenue and Pine Street to Market Street.
The last CDBG project in Onancock was in 1989, when 29 homes were rehabilitated.
No one commented at a public hearing about the grant application.
The application is due April 1, and the town should hear whether the grant is awarded within three to five months, according to Luchansky.
Onancock Logo Adopted
The town council voted to adopt the Onancock brand and logo developed over a year of work by Onancock Main Street, working with Otto Design + Marketing of Norfolk.
A grant awarded to Onancock Main Street paid for development of the brand and logo.
Onancock Main Street is a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization that works to develop and sustain the historic downtown as a vital economic, cultural, recreational, and residential center for the community
Gov. Ralph Northam in September 2020 announced Onancock’s designation as a Virginia Main Street community.
Being in the program means the town will receive intensive services, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, to strengthen and revitalize the downtown.
Services include market analysis, marketplace development, capacity building, design assistance, organization development, economic strategies, and façade renderings for redevelopment projects.
Karin Rush-Monroe of Onancock Main Street said the colors chosen for the logo are meant “to invoke our natural environment” and prominent inclusion of the town’s founding date, 1680, pays homage to the town’s history, while the font is contemporary.
The logo includes the tagline: “A little slice of nowhere else.”
“We pulled together a foundation of attributes of Onancock, based on a lot of feedback we got from the community,” she said.
A stakeholder team of 17 people representing various parts of the community gave input to help develop the brand.
“This is a logo for the town,” Rush-Monroe said, adding that trademark and copyright are being pursued and guidelines for the logo’s use are being developed.
“We’ll be rolling that out as a package so that people have the right camera-ready art, they know how to use it,” she said.
“This is exactly what Onancock needs,” said Councilwoman Catherine Krause, who seconded a motion made by Joy Marino to approve the logo.
American Rescue Plan
The American Rescue Plan approved by Congress includes direct allocations of funds to town, Town Manager Matt Spuck told the council.
The town is expected to receive around $1.1 million in federal funds, with “very broadly stated” restrictions on their use, Spuck said.
The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11 to speed up the nation’s recovery from adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uses allowed for the funds give localities include helping impacted businesses and nonprofits; offering essential workers incentive compensation; offsetting lost revenue for the town; and making investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Onancock is beginning to develop a list of eligible projects for which the funds could be used.
Spuck said one potential use is to give additional help to the town’s businesses.
“We’ve already issued well over $100,000 in grants to our small businesses, but this gives us the ability to really bridge the gap for any downturn in revenue” from 2019 to 2020, Spuck said.
He also recommended looking “very, very carefully” at the town’s water infrastructure needs, saying he made a list of 14 items “just sitting in my office today.”
The town’s sewer system will soon transition to ownership by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, so sewer expenditures likely will not be considered for use of the federal funds.
He asked council members to brainstorm uses for the money, half of which will be issued soon, with the other half allocated 12 months later. The deadline to use the funds is 2024.
“Strategically, how would you see using those monies?” Spuck asked council members to consider.
Krause and Onancock business owner Bill Burnham recommended talking with business owners about their needs that could be addressed using the funds.
“Having some sort of a roundtable where we’re talking to our business owners and seeing how maybe we can help support them from an infrastructure perspective, that might be something that would really show our businesses how important they are to us,” Krause said.
The town additionally recently paid out $45,000 in small business recovery assistance grants made possible by a CDBG grant. Two more businesses have submitted applications for $19,200 and seven additional businesses are preparing applications to receive assistance.
The town was awarded a $495,000 CDBG grant for small business recovery.
Spuck said there is a team in place to answer businesses’ questions about applying for assistance.
The town council will hold a public hearing April 22 on the proposed $1.8 million fiscal year 2022 town budget.
No tax increase is proposed. It is proposed to eliminate the town vehicle decal and instead add the fee to the personal property tax bill. The budget also proposes to lower water rates for low-volume users and high-use businesses, and to have the town cover online credit card payment fees.
Other Onancock News
The town office currently is open by appointment to facilitate physical distancing.
All town employees who chose to receive COVID-19 vaccination have received them.
Onancock recently hired a police officer and a grounds and landscaping employee. The town is working to hire another police officer. There are two finalists being considered for the position, according to Spuck.
A water leak on Jackson Street was scheduled to be repaired Wednesday.
Improvements to the boat ramp at the wharf will be underway soon and should be completed by mid-May.