The city of Statesboro is preparing an application for a $2 million award from a Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, program to fund aspects of the Creek on the Blue Mile project.
City Council at its April 2 meeting unanimously gave staff the go-ahead to apply.
Specifically, this grant would come through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs' CDBG Innovative Grant Program, from money left from fiscal year 2018, explained interim Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles. CDBG money comes from the federal government but is administered by the states.
"Recently the Georgia Department of Community Affairs through their Community Development Block Grant program announced the Innovative Grant Program … that seeks to provide funding for transformational changes," Boyles said. "These changes include and support long-term sustainable change."
This is a different channel of funding than that of the ordinary CDBG money Statesboro is seeking for water, sewer, drainage and roadway improvements on James, Floyd, Carver and Rountree streets. The council in January approved applying for a $750,000 share of CDBG funds for that work, with the understanding that $250,000 from the city's stormwater utility fees and another $250,000 from its water and sewer fund would be added to the grant money, if approved, for a $1.25 million total.
The opportunity to apply for the separate $2 million CDBG Innovative Grant program came from the new Creek on the Blue Mile Advisory Committee, Boyles said.
"I believe this is an adequate and ideal funding source to help support the Creek on the Blue Mile project," he told the mayor and council.
Only $4 million is available in the CDBG Innovative Grant program for grants statewide, Boyles said in answer to a question from Councilman Phil Boyum. So Statesboro is applying for half of the statewide total, with $2 million being the maximum for a single grant.
May 31 is the pre-application deadline, followed by an Aug. 31 deadline for the full application if Statesboro's request is allowed to advance, Boyles said.
If the full $2 million were awarded to Statesboro, the city would need to supply $300,000 as a 15 percent local match. Boyles cited Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds remaining from the 2013 six-year SPLOST referendum as the source for the $300,000.
Other 'Creek' funds
Through prior efforts by the Blue Mile Foundation Inc., private Creek on the Blue Mile Commission volunteers and originally also the Development Authority of Bulloch County, the city already has $21 million in state funding and financing available for the project. This includes a $5.5 million state direct investment to build the reservoir west of South College Street and a $15.5 million, 30-year very low-interest line of credit for the creek channel under South Main Street and eastward.
But all of this funding is dedicated to flood-control aspects of the plan, which also has economic development purposes and recreational features. Those features include a linear park along the creek, a central fountain, a suggested "veterans park," and an amphitheater in the Fair Road Park area.
City officials have also been looking for ways to minimize use of the line of credit if possible, by replacing a portion of the loan with grants.
Corps grant unlikely
In mid-March, two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff members from the Savannah District office met with Statesboro City Council to discuss the possibility of federal grants for the Creek project.
But the Corps of Engineers grant program for flood control has virtually been ruled out as a funding source, Boyles told other Creek on the Blue Mile Advisory Committee members during their March 26 organizational meeting. The federal program is for projects that mitigate flood events with a flow rate of at least 800 cubic feet per second, but the Corps' preliminary look at the Creek on the Blue Mile area showed a likely flow of only about 400 cfs, Boyles said.
Boyles, whose longer-term job is as the city's director of public works and engineering, is one of Statesboro's two current interim assistant city managers.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.