Ranburne loses out on grant; Shrinking town struggling to fund services
by Laura Camper
Nov 20, 2013 | 3151 views |  0 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The governor’s office recently announced awards of $5.6 million in Community Development Block Grants, and the town of Ranburne was not on the list.

Ranburne had applied for a $265,950 small-cities grant to help widen and repave some aging roads.

The bulk of the grants were awarded about two weeks ago, said Jim Plott, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which reviewed the award applications.

There is a little money left over and there may be another award or two, he added. However, the leftover money often is used instead for economic development, Plott said. Ranburne’s best chance at seeing some grant money will be if another city declines its award, Plott said.

Ranburne Town Clerk Pam Richardson said she doesn’t know if the town is next in line for receiving a grant. There were 50 applicants for the small-city grant program and only 17 awards, Richardson said. She hasn’t received any notification from the state about how the town’s application scored or how it compared to the other cities.

“We’ll learn and go on,” Richardson said.

She’s already noticed one thing. Headland, a city in Henry County, applied for the same grant in two different categories – large cities and community enhancement. It won the grant in the large-cities category. She wonders if the same strategy might help Ranburne next time.

This is the second time Ranburne has unsuccessfully applied for the grant program.

The town applied through the same grant program in 2010 in the community enhancement category, Richardson said. Ranburne had requested $305,000 to build a community recreation center. It agreed to pay a match of $54,800, and it purchased property on Main Street where it could build the center, Richardson said. But the town’s application didn’t win.

Ranburne continues to make payments on the bond it used to purchase the center, she added. The town bought the property in February 2009 and still owes $109,400, she said. The final payment is scheduled for February 2024. City leaders currently have no plans for the property, Lowery said. But he said he looks at it as an investment.

“There hadn’t been any land for sale in Ranburne for years,” Lowery said.

When the town is ready, the property will be ready for use, he added.

The problem is, Ranburne is small and getting smaller. Its population shrunk from 459 to 409 according to the 2010 federal census. Long-time businesses are also leaving, Lowery said.

Mitchell Auto and Used Cars, Value Foods and the Alcoholic Beverage Control liquor store have all closed in the past few years, he said. And that has meant a dwindling tax base, he said.

“We don’t have the tax base to survive,” Lowery said.

That’s what makes the grant programs so attractive, he added. They can allow the city to maintain streets and erect new buildings to replace aging facilities. Those are things the city would be hard pressed to afford any other way, he said.

It’s a predicament many small cities face, he said.

“So many small towns need it,” Lowery said. “Maybe one day, we’ll score.”

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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