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Rincon signs on to gateway grant
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The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce and the city of Rincon are opening the door to the county’s gateway along Highway 21.

Rincon will be submitting a grant application to the state Department of Transportation’s GATEway program and the application has to be in the state’s hands Nov. 30. The Georgia Transportation Enhancement program is set aside for roadside beautification projects.

“We ran into a few roadblocks,” Chamber President Michael Lee said. “But Rincon has stepped forward. We’re real happy with what’s going on and being on the right track.”

Rincon city planner LaMeisha Hunter is writing the grant application. Rincon also is taking on a five-year commitment as part of the deal.

“LaMeisha has been wonderful to work with on this project,” said former Chamber President Freddie Long, who has championed the cause since his tenure last year.

Under the proposal, the beautification project will start at Lisa Street and go south toward the county line. The grant, which would be $50,000, comes from the state DOT’s receipts from highway billboard advertising. Any organization, local government or state agency may apply for an individual grant that involves the local community and enhances the right of way. Grants max out at $50,000 each, and the state has $450,000 available to disburse.

Grant applications must come with a local government resolution, which Rincon City Council approved unanimously, a memorandum of understanding, cost projections for landscape construction and installation, a long-term maintenance plan and funding sources for the applicant’s contributions to the project.

Hunter said the city’s cost would be $2,100 in in-kind contributions and a direct cost of $4,800. The grant proceeds would go toward the purchase of plants and paying for the labor needed to maintain the plants. The city also could donate the mulch it produces. The city also could use reuse water from its treatment plant from a tanker to irrigate the plants it puts in along the project.

Long said the Chamber also has brought the Rincon Garden Club on board to plant some perennials in the median.

The grant awards will be announced in March, and plans are start to start work in the summer. Part of the plan includes planting holly, juniper and crape myrtle trees, but those won’t take place until fall, if the grant is awarded.

“We won’t be planting those trees in July — not if we want them to live,” Long said.

The Chamber has gotten letters of support from the county commission and from business owners along the Highway 21 corridor.

“They’re looking forward to having that median dressed up,” Long said.

But the state’s dire straits for road money lead to some questioning.

“How can the DOT have enough money to beautify roads and doesn’t have enough money to maintain roads we have?” asked Commissioner Hubert Sapp.