Tryon hears testimony in Hannon CDBG complaintPublished 7:31pm Monday, June 11, 2012
Council to hear findings June 19
The investigative committee of Tryon Town Council heard testimony from the Hannon and Littlejohn family on June 5 regarding a complaint about a house being left out of the 2008 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project, through which several houses in Tryon’s Eastside were renovated.
The family of homeowner Haywood Hannon has filed a complaint because the home at 57 West Livingston Street was dropped from the project because of lack of funds. The family was also upset because the home was hooked up to town sewer to comply with grant restrictions.
Brook Hannon, grandson of Haywood Hannon, initially voiced concerns over the project during town council’s April 2 meeting, at which the town returned $43,533 to the state.
The budget for the Hannon house renovations was $52,000 but the estimate came in at $70,000.
Paula Kempton of Isothermal Planning and Development Commission (IPDC), which administered the grant for the town, said she tried to get a contractor to use the remaining approximately $43,000 to do as many renovations to the house as possible but the state wouldn’t allow the work because it wasn’t enough money to bring the home up to code.
Brook Hannon told the investigative committee on June 5 his grandfather agreed for the town to run a sewer line only because he was led to believe it was necessary and part of getting his house renovated.
Town officials said the sewer hookup was a separate issue from the renovations and that they tried everything to get the house completed. Kempton said contractors could not have noooked up the sewer without Hayood Hannon’s permission. Councilman Roy Miller, liaison for the project, said he did everything to try to get the house completed, even go as far as to get the town to offer $10,000 toward the project while asking the state for an additional $25,000, which was denied.
Grant funding paid for the sewer connection, which was one of Brook Hannon’s questions to the town. He said he wanted to know who was responsible for his family having an additional expense of $60 per month without the upgrades to the home.
Hannon said Miller didn’t tell the family that the house was not going to be renovated. Miller said he thought the house was going to be included until the final word in December 2011. Councilman George Baker asked Hannon what he wanted the town to do, referring to his question as “blue sky.” Hannon answered once that he wanted the sewer disconnected, but the septic tank was removed when the sewer connection was made. Hannon also said he wanted the opportunity to secure the additional funding in order to complete the renovations, but town officials said it was too late for that since the town already sent the remaining funding back to the state. Hannon ended by saying he hopes when the town secures additional funding for CDBG projects his family’s home will be put at the top of the list.
Kempton said that is possible if the home meets the criteria in the future.
“We all wanted the house to be fixed,” Miller said. “And I think that in all fairness and clarity everything that we did is documented.”
The grant does allow one home to be dropped from the project, with the focus of the neighborhood revitalization project being low-income homeowners and higher priority given to disabled and elderly residents.
R. Haywood Hannon (homeowner) and Angela H. Littlejohn (daughter of Haywood Hannon, who lives in the home) sent a letter to Tryon with their grievance on May 2, 2012. The letter states that the homeowners have concerns that work that was completed on their home to connect the property to city sewer has resulted in additional expenses.
The letter further states that throughout the application process, members of IPDC “consistently and clearly” stated that if any work was started on any property being funded by the grant, all related work must be completed and the property brought up to standard building codes.
“If this is the case, when councilman Miller advised Littlejohn/Hannon of the requirement to connect their property to the city sewer and the family complied, the family assumed that CDBG funds were expended on the property under the guise of preparing the property for the additional work originally authorized under the CDBG grant,” states the letter. “With this expenditure of CDBG funds, it would seem there is a legal mandate to complete the originally planned work on the property.”
Baker asked Brook Hannon what he thinks the town did wrong, and Hannon answered he has nothing against the town.
“Why would we do bad things to you guys?” Baker asked. “What’s our motivation to go down there and destroy your neighborhood?”
Baker added that at the time the town asked Haywood Hannon to hook up to town sewer, the town did not know the house renovations would not be completed.
The investigative committee will present its findings to the full town council on June 19. If the town finds no wrongdoing, the complaint can move forward with state officials.