Jacksonville officials hoping for grant to improve water system
by Laura Johnson
Apr 14, 2013 | 3724 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville city leaders hope to receive a $450,000 grant for upgrades to the community’s water system to improve fire protection and save money.

If successful in securing the Community Development Block Grant, Jacksonville will replace mains, valves and water lines. The project, which would entail rerouting the lines beneath unpaved rights of way, would result in improvements to the water system on Vann and Coffee streets, and improvements to the underground system along Fifth, Sixth and Eighth avenues in Jacksonville.

Community Development Block Grants have been used to make improvements in Jacksonville for several years. The city has used the grant program to fund street resurfacing projects, housing redevelopment projects and other infrastructure improvements, said Lynn Causey, the city’s planner.

Causey said it could be several months before the city knows whether it will receive the grant. She added that even if the city does get the money, it will be at least a year before crews begin doing the planned improvement work.

According to Causey, the water system work would improve fire protection service by giving firefighters better water pressure. She said it would also help city utility workers locate water lines more easily, which would save money and time when water lines leak.

Jacksonville is not the only area municipality pursuing a Community Development Block Grant this year. Last week Piedmont applied for money from the grant fund to rebuild a senior center. Hobson City is also pursuing a grant to fund improvements to residents’ homes.

The grants are offered on a competitive basis to small cities, which are defined as cities with fewer than 3,000 residents; to large cities, which are defined as cities with more than 3,000 residents; and to counties regardless of their population.

Larger cities, including Anniston, are guaranteed money from the grant fund and do not have to compete for it. Other “entitlement cities” in Alabama include Birmingham and Mobile, said Diane Glenn, a principal planner with East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.

The grant allocation for cities the size of Jacksonville is $450,000, but that could be reduced before the grants are awarded.

That’s because the total grant allocation has yet to be issued due to sequestration, the across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that took effect March 1.

The top funding allocation has already fallen to $450,000 from $500,000 in recent years.

“It may go down from $450,000 to we don’t know what,” Glenn said. “The money keeps getting less and the need keeps getting more.”

Glenn said the federal government usually reports in February how much funding will be available.

In Alabama, Community Development Block Grants are disbursed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Since 1982 ADECA has awarded $700 million in federal Community Development Block Grant Funding for roughly 2,000 projects.

In keeping with federal standards, 51 percent of the people that benefit from the project must live in low- or moderate- income households, aid in the prevention or clearance of slums and blighted communities, or meet an urgent need.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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