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Hill, Burns deliver local aid grants
05.01 fairground check
State Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington), far left, and state Sen Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), far right, present a check for $10,000 in local assistance grant money to Jeff Northway and Charles Usher. The money will be used to replace bleachers at the livestock arena the Effingham County Fairgrounds. The Effingham fair committee will match the state’s local assistance grant, which is pending approval by Gov. Sonny Perdue. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

It’s not just bringing home the bacon, state lawmakers said of the local assistance grants.

State Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) and state Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington) announced four local assistance grants for Effingham County, including $11,000 for computers in sheriff’s department cars and $10,000 for the Effingham Fairgrounds.

Getting the grants is done on a competitive basis, and the process is very competitive, Burns and Hill said.

“(Funding for) local assistance grants has stayed at $6 million, and you have the same 180 House members and same 56 Senate members trying to divvy up $6 million,” Hill said. “It gets interesting.

“There’s a lot of politics that go into the positions of the House and Senate. You try to put yourself in a position where you can horse trade a little bit. You have to have some faith that it will all work out.”

Hill has seven counties in his district, and Burns represents all or parts of five counties.

“When you take a district like mine that has five counties, it’s a challenge to take that relatively small pot of money and divvy it up among worthwhile projects in the district,” Burns said. “These are very worthwhile projects, as far as I’m concerned.”

The money for the fairgrounds is being paired with a matching sum from the Effingham Fair Committee to replace bleachers at the livestock arena.

“It’s an overflow crowd and the bleacher system in place is not real safe,” Burns said.

He also said the agricultural programs supported by the fair and its cattle and hog shows help keep some kids in school.

“Our aim out at the fairgrounds is to keep agricultural awareness in the county and to provide a place the citizens of Effingham County can come and enjoy,” said Charles Usher.

Guyton received two grants, one for $2,500 for public safety equipment and $10,000 to renovate the old gym. Burns said the city had asked for more than the $2,500 for public safety use it received.

“I can tell you not everyone gets everything they want and not every community in my district gets everything they want,” Hill said. “There’s about $20 million in requests for $6 million in grants.”

The local assistance grants were developed when the state’s coffers were flush and the budgetary outlook was rosy.

“We had a little money in the budget that we could come back home and do some special things for local concerns,” Burns said.

Hill noted that when he first entered the state Senate in 1990, the state’s budget was around $12 billion and the money available for such spending was about $20 million.

The state’s fiscal year 2009 budget is about $21 billion.

Hill defended the local assistance grants, remarking how they are used to support local law enforcement agencies, school systems and community programs.

“They’re all under $50,000,” he said of the grants.