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City happy to get block grant for residents

POSTED: August 29, 2011 7:07 p.m.

The second time is the charm for Springfield in its quest for a community development block grant.

On Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal announced the awarding of more than $38 million in aid from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the state’s community development block grant program. The funds are used to help smaller and rural communities to create jobs and improve living conditions for low- and moderate-income residents.

“We’re very happy,” said Springfield City Manager Brett Bennett.

Springfield will be getting a CDBG for $359,605 to replace septic systems for South Railroad Avenue and Tunnel Road homes with a sanitary sewer. With the grant funding, sewer service will be extended across the railroad tracks to approximately 20 homes.

Bennett mentioned the grant application during his presentation on the city Thursday at the annual community retreat at St. Simons Island and said the city hoped to hear soon on whether it got the grant. Friday morning, state Sen. Jack Hill called Springfield City Hall to tell them the good news.

“It was very exciting and kind of odd on the timing,” Bennett said.

Bennett also expressed his thanks to all who worked on the grant application, especially Springfield resident Pearl Thomas, whom Bennett called “the spearhead behind” the grant process.

“She did it the right way,” Bennett added. “She started coming to the council meetings and asked, ‘how can we work together as a group and how we can work together to make it happen?’ Even though we didn’t get it the first time that way, it works. I’d like to give her thanks for not letting it die.”

Bennett will attend a recipients’ workshop on Sept. 15. From there, Bennett expects to have a better idea of how soon work can begin. Preliminary engineering has not been done yet and the project has not been designed.

Some easements also have to be obtained and because the project is being conducted with federal money, Bennett expects such tasks as historical and environmental surveys to be necessary.

“There are a few steps that take some time,” he said.

The city sought a grant in excess of $450,000 last year, which would have included a local match of $25,000 to cover the tap-in fees.

Residents of the neighborhood had long complained about the costs of upkeep with their septic systems and the problems they had with their septic tanks. The tanks were having to be pumped out several times a year, at a cost of about $225 each time, and the tanks also filled with rainwater during heavy rains.

There also were complaints of sewage backup in the septic systems, slow drainage and toilets that would not flush.

Residents also have told council members that they would have to do their bathing and laundry before the rain starts.

The initial grant application was submitted to the state Department of Community Affairs in late March 2010, and the city received its rejection notice six months later.

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