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City seeks grant for flood relief
Surveys residents in effort to receive $500,000
W 022013 GORDON STREET 02
City of Statesboro code compliance officer Kara' Lundy asks resident James Gates some survey questions Wednesday as part of a city application for a federal Community Development Block Grant for improvements in the Gordon Street neighborhood. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

City leaders are knocking on doors this week in an attempt to obtain federal grant money that would repair an oft-flooded section of Statesboro.
Code enforcement personnel, City Manager Frank Parker and a pair of councilmen — Phil Boyum and Gary Lewis — walked door to door Wednesday to properties located on or near Gordon Street, to meet with residents and discuss issues the community faces with standing rainwater in its streets and yards.
The effort is part of an application process for a Community Development Block Grant — a federal program designed to address the infrastructural and community development needs of low-income portions of a city — that could be worth as much as $500,000.
City officials hope to get CDBG funds and pair them with local Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars to address drainage issues along portions of Gordon, Lafayette, Turner and East Main streets, and Cone Crescent.
“We know that the area is flat and that it drains poorly. That is why we are doing this project — to keep water from standing in people’s yards, in the streets and underneath houses,” Assistant City Engineer David Hendrix said. “The issue has been recognized for a while now, and we’ve had every intention of getting in there and fixing it. Getting the grant money would obviously help to speed that up. We could do a lot more in a much shorter time frame.”
To qualify for the grant, city staff must conduct surveys with a member from each household in the area. The surveys demonstrate a need for improvements and serve as proof that residents meet income requirements for receiving money.
“It is important that money supports an area of low to moderate income, which applies here, and it is clear that this problem has been neglected for a long period of time,” said Councilman Boyum, whose district includes the affected area. “When it rains, water runs right up to houses and pools between the homes. These folks do not have the resources to get that fixed. And the problem affects the entire neighborhood.”
According to Boyum, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded about 60 of 165 grant requests last year.
The city’s application, which includes citizen surveys, a preliminary engineering survey, and a city benefit survey, must be submitted by April 1.
“The reason this project is so attractive is, it can help one of the poorest areas of town and gain federal dollars to benefit the city,” Boyum said. “Anytime you can put in a dollar and have the federal government give you a dollar and a half, or two dollars, on top of that, it is a great way to get the taxes we send off to Washington back here in Statesboro.”
New curb and gutter installations, and additional piping, would directly benefit the community of about 120 people, but positively affect everyone in the city, Boyum said.
“When it rains, people in that area are opening clean-outs to the sewers to drain all of the water; that allows more debris into the wastewater system and puts additional stress on city facilities, affecting how much water can be taken out of the aquifer,” he said. “If we can decrease the stress on our facilities, then we increase the longevity of our water treatment plant, and that is good for all citizens in the City of Statesboro.”
Parker Engineering in Statesboro is handling engineering aspects of the grant application.
Engineer Wesley Parker, who lives a few blocks from the area and was familiar with Community Development Block Grants, first proposed the idea to city leaders.
“The area is one of the lowest parts of the city, and a lot of water drains into it. Residents can’t walk from their doors to the streets without standing in water; and they have water pooling under their houses,” Parker said. “This project would improve the quality of life for residents in this area.”
Officials will learn in September whether the grant is awarded to the city.
Work to improve the infrastructure would begin soon thereafter.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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