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Columbia aldermen authorize $1,500 for Harbor Towns grant

The Columbia Board of Aldermen on Sept. 8 authorized expenditure of $1,500 as the local share of a grant application to the U.S. Economic Development Administration that is focused on enabling the Harbor Towns Project to become a reality. The board endorsed the grant request in August.

The grant would advance a proposal to operate high-speed passenger ferries in Albemarle Sound and tributary rivers between the Outer Banks and five area towns: Columbia, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Hertford, and Plymouth.

Before the aldermen’s latest action, the Harbor Towns Project had received only cautious approval from Columbia’s leaders, primarily because the town’s share of costs has not been determined, a major one of which would be modifying the waterfront boardwalk and finger piers in Scuppernong River to accommodate the passenger ferries.

The town’s August resolution calls on the U.S. Economic Development Administration to fund a grant request, in an as yet undetermined amount, from COVID-19 pandemic appropriations made by Congress last spring. The operative paragraph reads:

“RESOLVED, that the Town of Columbia Board of Aldermen endorses the proposal of the Harbor Towns Project to request an EDA CARES grant to support tourism-based pandemic recovery and resilience efforts that will benefit public and private sector economic recovery through a regional marketing and promotional initiative.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides the Economic Development Administration with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, the EDA website states.

First-year budget estimate for the Harbor Towns Project is $14 million.