Bentley announces $15M in tornado relief grants
by Jennifer Cohron
Dec 20, 2012 | 1831 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gov. Robert Bentley, at left, speaks with former Cordova mayor Jack Scott and current mayor Drew Gilbert prior to a press conference in Hackleburg Wednesday morning. Cordova is set to receive nearly $1.4 million for a new grocery store. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Gov. Robert Bentley, at left, speaks with former Cordova mayor Jack Scott and current mayor Drew Gilbert prior to a press conference in Hackleburg Wednesday morning. Cordova is set to receive nearly $1.4 million for a new grocery store. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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HACKLEBURG — Gov. Robert Bentley announced Wednesday that Cordova has been awarded nearly $1.4 million to rebuild a grocery store.

The funding was part of $15.7 million for long-term recovery discussed during a press conference in Hackleburg Wednesday morning.

In all, nine local governments were approved for disaster-related Community Development Block Grants and low-interest loans.

“There are so many projects that were applied for. Some may not have gotten money this round, but we’ll continue to work with those projects to see if we can get some funding for those also,” Bentley said.

Several elected officials, including Sen. Greg Reed, discussed what the disaster relief funding will mean to residents affected by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes.

Reed noted that the projects that will result from Wednesday’s announcement are not new topics in their respective areas.

“These are things that we’ve talked about, that we’ve worked on, that we’ve struggled with for months and years,” Reed said.

Nowhere is that more true than in Reed’s hometown of Cordova, which is set to receive $1,392,613 for site preparation and construction of a grocery store.

Piggly Wiggly, the city’s only grocery store and nearly half of its revenue, was destroyed in the second tornado that hit Cordova on April 27.

Reopening has been complicated by the fact that the site sits in a flood plain, where rebuilding is prohibited. Also, grocers have been hesitant to invest in the construction of a building.

The current plan calls for a grocery store that will be located on a vacant block on Burlington Avenue.

Since the tornadoes, the city has acquired all of the land necessary for the project, and the area was recently rezoned for the purpose of a new grocery store.

“Thanks to your efforts, Governor, and thanks to the efforts of many of those who are with us today, the opportunity for that to move forward and for progress and recovery to happen will be a reality,” Reed said.

Following Wednesday’s announcement, Mayor Drew Gilbert said that although the process of bringing a grocery store to the city has been long and difficult, it has resulted in a best-case scenario.

“The city will have a lot of control over this build and this business, and we get to have a business owner who has been the anchor of our community for years come back to run it,” Gilbert said, referring to Piggly Wiggly owner Mark Bozeman.

Bozeman signed the letter of intent necessary for the city’s Economic and Industrial Development Authority to apply for the grant, and Bozeman Grocery Inc. is listed in the official paperwork as the grocer anticipated to go into the new building.

The building is expected to be approximately 8,000 square feet, which is slightly smaller than the former Piggly Wiggly. It will be operated by the EIDA, formerly known as the Cordova Industrial Development Board.

“They will use the rent money specifically to turn back into the community and spring up more business,” Gilbert said.

The $1.4 million is expected to cover the cost of the project, according to Gilbert.

The recent awards, which were part of a special allocation the state received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Communities were told Wednesday that they could expect to see the funds in 90 to 120 days.

If funding is received within that timeframe and construction takes no more than eight months, Gilbert is hopeful that Cordova residents will be shopping for groceries in their hometown again by the end of 2013.

“This is important not only economically, but just the sight of this thing coming back up — you can’t put a price tag on that,” Gilbert said.

Other local governments receiving awards Wednesday include DeKalb County, Franklin County, Hackleburg, Marion County, Moulton, Phil Campbell, the city of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County.