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Gateways work set to start in fall
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Work on the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce’s Gateways project is expected to begin in earnest this fall, after the state gave approval a long-awaited grant.

The state Department of Transportation signed off on the $27,500 grant to beautify the stretch of Highway 21 from approximately the southern edge of the Rincon city limits to Rutland Tire and Brake. But the initiative goes beyond just making the median between the four lanes of asphalt look nicer, according to Chamber executive director Ken Stoner.

“This is more than a beautification project,” he said. “This is a tool in economic development. Curb appeal and first impression is important to a community.”

The Chamber has partnered with the city of Rincon for the state grant, and Stoner applauded the efforts of Rincon city planner LaMeisha Hunter for helping guide the process through some rocky moments.

“I commend LaMeisha Hunter for her hard work and effort,” Stoner said. “When things got tough and we thought it wasn’t possible, it happened. This is what we can do when we work together.”

Along with the Chamber and the city, local garden clubs and some businesses also are participating in the project. The grants require a local government, either city or county, to sign on as a sponsor to ensure that continued maintenance is performed.

“We’ve got a good team,” Stoner said.

Planting of the shrubs, trees and flowers is expected to start in late September or early October.

“I’m certain it will make a big difference in the entrance to our community,” Mayor Ken Lee said.  

The DOT may have another round of grants available this month, and Stoner said last month that DOT officials have urged the local partnership to pursue those as well.

“We’ve got a lot of paperwork to do,” he said.