Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter recently approved $36.6 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).
Funds are available for water and sewer improvements, housing rehabilitation, health and safety projects and other improvements to enhance the quality of life in Tennessee’s rural communities. In addition to traditional community improvement and safety projects, funding was also made available for community development projects, such as sidewalk and walking trail improvements, street paving and community centers.
Of the 78 communities across Tennessee that received funds, Shelbyville, Wartrace, and Bell Buckle will also be included.
- Bell Buckle received $630,000 for sewer rehabilitation
- Wartrace received , $450,000 for Sewer System Improvements
- Shelbyville received $550,000 for Sidewalk Improvements
Each application was supported by the community’s senator and representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.
State Rep. Pat Marsh, who helped secure these local funds along with State Sen. Shane Reeves, said, “These grants were certainly needed and will help the citizens of these communities with their quality of life. And they were given without our people having to pay more in taxes.”
For Bell Buckle, Mayor Ronnie Lokey said they have been aiming for this grant for about three years. But because of the persistent work of Sarah Elizabeth McLeod, from the South Central Tennessee Development District, in addition to Rep. Marsh and Sen. Reeves, Lokey said they were able to secure the grant.
The grant is a matching grant, meaning bell Buckle will have to come up with around a quarter of the grant given.
“We have our rehab project being designed right now by our engineer, and that money will go in with what we’ve already put in for that project, so we can get more work done. That’ll put us ahead maybe,” said Lokey.
Specifically, they will focus on I&I (infiltration and in-flow) correction. This project is designed to keep more groundwater out, so it won’t have to be treated, and therefore drive the cost down.
“It makes one feel good, getting some of our tax money back and be able to help on the local level,” said Lokey.
Wartrace will also be working on sewer system improvements for their city limits with the $450,000 funds they received.
Mayor Brian Ross said the sewer system does need to be updated.
“A lot of the issues come from the railroad. Those incessant vibrations cause movement in our lines,” explained Ross.
“As far as the details of what those are going to be, we’re not sure as of yet but we will be working with our Utility Board and our Utility Director to ensure those funds get used appropriately. But we’re definitely excited about it,” he said.
Ross added these funds will “go a long way.”
“With us being a small town, having these types of funds readily available is a struggle. So my goal as mayor is to ensure we’re using the funds to improve our resources to help our residents,” Ross said.
For Shelbyville, as reported in last week’s edition of the Post, the $550,000 funds will be used to install and/or repair sidewalks on Deery Street from Depot Street.
The project will include curbs and gutters to improve the drainage on Deery Street. In addition, it will provide a safe, ADA compliant pedestrian walkway.
The process for the project will include engineering planning and environmental studies before bids can be solicited for the actual completion of the project.
This will be the second major grant for the city; they also received $1.1 million for the Madison Street sidewalk improvement.
“A lot of these grants now are based on health and things like that, trying to get people outside walking and providing avenues for those people to walk, or people in wheelchairs, so they can access the downtown area of our city,” said Mayor Randy Carroll.
“Anything we can do in Shelbyville and use grant money, that saves tax payers from having to bear any burden on any infrastructure or repair work,” he added.
The allocation of CDBG funds is based on priorities set through the public meeting process at the local community level. The CDBG program is funded through HUD and administered in Tennessee by the Department of Economic and Community Development.
In a recent press release, Gov. Lee congratulated the 78 communities who received funding.
“What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans, and these infrastructure improvements will be key in preparing communities for future economic development opportunities and continued growth,” he said.
Commissioner McWhorter also stated, “Recruiting companies to Tennessee and supporting our state’s existing business is a small part of our role at TNECD. Before we can land a new project, celebrate an expansion or provide support to small businesses, we have to ensure that our communities have the infrastructure and quality of life to support and attract these economic development opportunities.”
A press release that was sent by TNECD Media Contact Lindsey Tipton, Public Information Officer, contributed to this story.