Salem and Dent County may be eligible for a grant-funded voluntary demolition program to tear down dilapidated structures with the owners’ consent, county commissioners were told Monday.

Sally Burbridge, economic development director for both the county and the city, said she is gathering information about the Community Development Block Grant funded program that has already been used successfully in Belle.

Under this year’s rules for the residential program, the owner would pay a minimum of $500 up front and the grant would cover the rest. For a commercial structure, the owner would pay a minimum of 20 percent of the cost up front and the grant would cover the rest. “It’s a smokin’ deal,” she told commissioners.

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All properties would have to be identified in the grant application. The grant cycle ended in May for this year, allowing plenty of time to apply for the next round of grants, she said.

“The plus to it not being until next May, there would time to work with property owners, educate them about what it is and hopefully get them on board,” Burbridge said. The city is likely to apply but the county is also eligible, she noted.

Presiding commissioner Darrell Skiles voiced concerns about additional requirements for the applying entity that are included in federal grants that have nothing to do with the grant itself or its purpose. “But this might very well be a very good deal,” he said.

Burbridge noted that Kelly Sink at MRPC wrote a similar grant for Belle last year that resulted in the demolition of seven residential structures. Burbridge plans to talk to Sink as part of her research.

She also reported that a new business, Titan Outdoor Construction, has relocated to Salem from New Jersey. Burbridge said she has been talking to owner Don Mutz for several months. Titan does driveway paving, asphalt work, drainage work to divert water away from structures and landscaping. Mutz is currently operating out of his home on Highway F.

Burbridge has also been handed the city/county/chamber website project and has a call scheduled with Revize, the web developer, to get an update on where the project stands. Questionnaires and photos have been submitted, along with new logos. Rebranding work is underway. After talking to Revize, “We’ll have much better idea where we’re at and what we’re looking at, at that point,” she said.

Work is continuing on the Certified Site application for a lot at Masters Industrial Park, with the environmental site assessment complete and new floodplain boundaries to be adopted soon after the city holds a public hearing Aug. 3. The FEMA floodplain map and a floodplain ordinance, adopted by the city, must be included in the Certified Site application.

Maps are required of tornado activity, seismic activity and Karst topographical conditions, including the location of the closest sinkholes and abandoned mines to the project area. The closest is an old mine shaft on private property just to the east, she said.

Dent County also saw a small drop in its unemployment rate in May, to 5.9 percent from 6.1 percent in April, Burbridge reported. Both figures are well below the state rates of 10.2 percent in April and 10.1 percent in May. The April rate was adjusted upward from 9.7 percent.

According to the report, Dent county had 363 unemployed in May compared to 379 in April. It also showed a decrease in the civilian work force to 6,114 in May from 6,162 in April, meaning fewer people were actively looking for work.

Under commission reports, First District commissioner Dennis Purcell said grading was planned Monday on county roads 4230, 4235, 4237, 5170, 6020 and 5600. Crews were to be cutting brush on 4110, 4170 and 5080.

Second District commissioner Gary Larson said crews would be grading county roads 2330, 2160, 5330, 2240 and 2245, hauling material to 3180, cutting brush on 4300 and replacing road signs at the intersection of 2550 and 2450, where a truck skidded through on Saturday. Skiles said his fence was damaged by the accident. The driver left the scene and later struck a tree about two miles down the road.

Skiles also congratulated the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Salem on a successful Fourth of July parade and fireworks display. The parade benefitted from favorable weather and was longer due to the number of candidates participating. “I heard lots of nice comments about it,” he said.

Skiles also announced that applications for CARES Act business grant funding are now being accepted, with a maximum of $20,000 per business. For more information or to apply, contact Kelly Sink at MRPC, which is handling administration of the grant program.

In her report, county clerk Angie Curley said Wednesday is the deadline to register to vote in the August primary. The deadline to request an absentee or mail-in ballot is July 22. Absentee voting continues in the office until Aug. 3 with the clerk’s office open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 1 for absentee voting.