The Smithfield Town Council has approved a request from Town Manager Michael Scott to apply for a $900,000 COVID-19 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). If awarded, the Town plans to install free Wi-Fi at town parks and make improvements to the Amphitheater at the Town Commons.
The locations being considered for the free Wi-Fi include Smithfield Community Park, Smith-Collins Park, Gertrude Johnson Park and the Civitan Park. Wi-Fi would also be provided at the Town Commons in the Amphitheatre area. The cost is estimated at $250,000. An additional $600,000 is earmarked for improvements at the Amphitheatre. The cost for grant administration was placed at $50,000.
“We are hopeful that our application will be accepted,” said Tim Kerigan, Public Information Officer for the Town of Smithfield. “COVID has put a great strain on not only Smithfield, but communities throughout the world. It has negatively impacted people’s health, businesses’ revenues, citizens’ employment, and students’ access to education as they and their parents have come to expect it. Johnston County Schools have done a phenomenal job in navigating these difficult waters. They have provided tablets to assist with digital learning as well as Wi-Fi hotspots, but this will provide even more to our citizens with free internet access and enhance our healthy, open spaces.”
Proposed amphitheater improvements include ADA accessibility, grading, seating spaces for work and leisure and an improved stage area.
Town Councilman Travis Scott asked if there were other priorities and projects the grant could be used towards. Michael Scott, the town manager, said the grant is specific for COVID-19 response efforts dealing with social distancing.
If the grant is awarded, there will be no requirement for matching funds from the Town of Smithfield.