Town seeking grants to better community

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 8/5/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

OAKMAN — The Town of Oakman held a Community Development Block Grant hearing Thursday, as the town seeks to apply for grants to help their community.

The hearing was held at the Oakman Senior Center, with Oakman Mayor …

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Town seeking grants to better community

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

OAKMAN — The Town of Oakman held a Community Development Block Grant hearing Thursday, as the town seeks to apply for grants to help their community.

The hearing was held at the Oakman Senior Center, with Oakman Mayor Cory Franks, town council members, Oakman High School Principal Patrick Gann, Oakman Middle School Principal Chris Walton, State Rep. Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley), Sandi Sudduth with the Jasper Area Family Services Center and others in attendance.

Kevin Kessler with Community Consultants out of Huntsville, who will be helping Oakman apply for a CDBG grant, explained the application process and what grants may be available for the town.

“These are federal funds from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) that come to the state through ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs). Each year they have a competitive process where towns that are eligible can apply for these funds,” Kessler said. “Each application that goes in has to benefit at least 51 percent of what is considered low to moderate income families, and, as it turns out, Oakman, town-wide, is over 51 percent.”

Oakman will be in the small city pool of grant applications that will be delivered to ADECA. He said the grant application process is competitive, with roughly 40 to 50 applications being submitted and only half being funded.

“It will be based on the urgency that you have compared to other communities, the number of beneficiaries and total impact the project will have,” Kessler said. “The funds are getting smaller and smaller each year. Actually, in Trump’s projected budget, there will be no funding for CDBG in his initial budget.”

The town can apply for a single purpose or ADECA community enhancement grant, but not both. Through a single purpose grant, small cities can be awarded up to $350,000, with a 10 percent match. The town of Oakman is seeking a single purpose grant with hopes of improving their sewer system/lagoon, along with any other infrastructure improvements.

Oakman Mayor Cory Franks said the town’s lagoon is becoming to most expensive asset in the community.

“Our lagoon system is having a lot of issues with equipment, and the cost to replace that equipment is far beyond what the town can [manage] on its own,” he said. “The lagoon is working, but we just had to spend over $7,000 on a piece of equipment for the lagoon, and those type of situations are beginning to be often, and we can’t continue to do it.

“We just need an overhaul on some of the equipment and upgrades to the lagoon so we can continue to serve the people of Oakman the best we can.”

The match for the grant, if awarded, would be 10 percent, but Kessler said town’s of less than 1,000 residents are not required to meet that match; however, he said town’s that can provide a partial match or in-kind services will be more competitive in the application pool. In-kind services would include work the town can provide on a grant funded project.

Oakman may also apply for an economic development grant to help with infrastructure to recruit new business. Economic development grants are accepted on a continuous basis. The town could also choose to submit an application for a planning fund grant to help with downtown revitalization.

Oakman will have until Aug. 31 to submit their grant application for sewer upgrades, and Kessler said community members may submit letters about the condition of the sewer to be included in the grant application. He said letters of observations and concerns could greatly strengthen the application. Letters should be submitted to Oakman Town Hall no later than one week prior to the Aug. 31 application deadline.

Aside from the sewer system, Franks said he would like to see potential grant funds be used to improve sidewalks and possibly develop a community park. The town is also exploring assistance outside of CDBG grants.

“I don’t know why the grants haven’t been applied for in a while, but it’s just time to start reapplying for everything we can,” he said. “As small towns, we have to rely on grants and funds that are out there, and I feel it’s important that we take advantage of all those opportunities. The worst thing that can happen is we get turned down for the grant, but the best thing that can happen is we get approved. ... If you want to continue to better your community, you have to continue to apply and do the things that are going to help you be successful.”

Once the Oakman Town Council approves for Franks to submit the grant application later this month, it will be delivered to ADECA by Aug. 31. CDBG awards are typically announced in November