CAMDEN — Camden Village Council members conferred with a grant application specialist during their bi-monthly meeting Sept. 5.
“I think we need to cast our line, and she’s the one to lead us to do it,” councilman Kelly Doran said of Susan Laux, Grants and Funding Specialist at Greenville-based civil engineering firm Mote & Associates.
Laux spoke during Thursday’s public meeting to inform council and other attendees about prospects for potential state and federal grant funding. The village is seeking funding for a number of projects, including renovations to the upstairs portion of the Camden Town Hall; a new addition to the town hall that would include a garage for village police vehicles; repairs to the town’s water tower; and extension of water service to neighboring communities.
The village has already completed extensive renovations to the first floor of the Town Hall, which were also grant-funded. Laux said this could act as a point in the town’s favor when applying for additional funds.
“Now they have the ability to see what you’ve already done — that you have the ability to take on and complete a project,” Laux said.
Laux felt that the planned police department addition would not be a good project to emphasize in this particular cycle of applications, however, as the administrators of civil engineering grants tend to prefer supporting multipurpose areas such as public parks and cultural initiatives.
“It’s just not the type of thing they typically fund,” Laux said.
Councilman Doran suggested capitalizing on the village’s connection to novelist and short story writer Sherwood Anderson, who was born in Camden in 1876. Anderson published eight novels, four short story collections, two books of poetry and a number of nonfiction works over the course of his career.
“I think we need to play that up. I think it has a nice ring to it,” Doran said.
Laux also felt that a meeting space planned for the Town Hall’s second floor could be a good fit for the application’s cultural piece. She advised council to solicit letters and testimonials from community members hoping to take advantage of the space.
“If they put money into this, is someone going to actually use it?” Laux said. “They’re going to want to know that.”
Doran felt there was significant demand for the planned meeting space, which is intended to be rented out for weddings and other large events. He claimed several village residents have already reached out to him about renting the space.
“The need is there already, and we haven’t even really done anything to get the word out yet,” Doran said.
Doran also claimed that some of the community’s more rural residents are without municipal water service or functioning wells. Laux suggested solicting letters in support of their application from these residents as well.
“That’s a big problem, and I can see it being something that people are going to want to solve,” Laux said.
Council ultimately voted unanimously to hire Laux to help prepare grant applications for the coming season.
Camden Comeback president Katie Duskey asked council about creating an ordinance preventing uninsured, or otherwise unqualified, people from cutting down trees in the village. Duskey claimed an acquaintance had sustained property damage when a portion of a tree cut down by an individual “who did not seem sober” landed on her property.
“I don’t want us to be the kind of village where you have to ask permission to do everything,” Councilman Doran said. He indicated, however, that he would not be opposed to an ordinance requiring residents to plant a replacement tree somewhere in the village before cutting down another.
Councilman Ernest Crabtree disagreed, saying residents who sustain property damage in such a way should take the parties responsible to court.
“If they want to cut down their tree, let them cut down their damn tree,” Crabtree said.
Village resident Karen Brewer raised concerns about reconnect fees charged when a resident’s water service is disconnected.
“What do you guys do with people who can’t afford to have their water turned back on?” Brewer asked, saying that while she was able to afford the reconnect fee, she was concerned about other residents who might be less fortunate.
Councilman Doran indicated that paying one’s bills on time was a matter of setting appropriate priorities, however.
“When I moved to town, I didn’t have a computer, or a cell phone, or internet, or cable TV. Who today doesn’t have those things?” Doran said. “But you can’t pay your water bill?”
Doran also indicated the village was open to working with residents in dire financial circumstances.
“We’ve been very good about adjusting bills for people when there’s a problem,” Doran said. “But not if you just decide not to pay your bill.”
Council member Debbie Hickman agreed.
“It’s always the same 15 or 20 people every month,” Hickman said.
Village council meetings are held at the Camden Town Hall at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month.