Blowing Rock waits on Rural Center funds
by Kellen Short
The town of Blowing Rock is still waiting on a $585,495 grant promised by the now-defunded N.C. Rural Economic Development Center to aid in construction of a new hospital project.
The Rural Center's funds were frozen and its leadership forced out in July after a News & Observer investigation and a resulting state audit alleged the nonprofit failed to provide adequate oversight of state money and paid its president an "unreasonable" salary of $221,000.
Lawmakers directed a new division in the Department of Commerce to handle grant opportunities for the state's rural counties.
Since Aug. 1, the Office of State Budget and Management has paid out more than 60 grants totaling $3.4 million, said Kim Genardo, communications director for Gov. Pat McCrory.
But as of Monday, Blowing Rock's grant was not one of them.
"The State Office of Budget & Management releases the funds after an audit, which takes 24 to 48 hours once we receive the complete file from the N.C. Rural Center," Genardo said in an email Monday. "To date, state budget auditors have not received any paperwork from the Rural Center concerning Blowing Rock's grant."
The town of Blowing Rock intends to use the grant to assist with water and sewer infrastructure at the new Appalachian Regional Medical Center hospital plan off U.S. 321.
The project, now tentatively named Chestnut Ridge at Blowing Rock, will provide post-acute care for the elderly, including short- and long-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing care, memory care support and palliative care.
Laura Kendall, a former CFO at Food Lion and former president of Tanner Companies, was hired to help manage the transition process to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The new division is expected to begin taking applications for new rural grants Oct. 1.