by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
RALEIGH — One of North Carolina’s most successful community planning and design firms has been formally reprimanded and fined for submitting an application for a federal grant to repair low-income homes in Yadkin County that contained signatures of deceased homeowners and other inaccurate information.
In addition, the state Department of Commerce has put that county and the Town of Haw River in Alamance County on notice that they risk losing additional funds unless they do a better job of verifying the work of contractors who prepare grant applications. Haw River had authorized a contractor to apply for funds to rehabilitate several houses – including one that was scheduled to be demolished to provide canoe and kayak access to the river.
In both cases, the contractor was Hobbs, Upchurch Associates, the Southern Pines business co-owned by Fred Hobbs, who served one term as a Democratic state senator in the mid-1990s. The company has designed and consulted on some of the largest municipal and county projects in the state over the past 26 years, including water, wastewater, golf course and other developments. Hobbs, Upchurch has handled scores of federal Community Development Block Grants administered by the state commerce department.