Worth cities receive grants

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

SYLVESTER, Ga. -- Officials in two Worth County municipalities got some good economic news from state officials this week.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday that Sylvester had been awarded a $2 million OneGeorgia grant to expand the runway at the Sylvester Airport, while Poulan officials were informed recently that that city had been awarded funding for one of seven Georgia Environmental Finance Authority infrastructure projects, receiving a $400,000 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan to improve the city's water system.

Poulan had also recently received a $5,400 Georgia Heritage grant for improvements on its historic library.

"The leadership of the county and the cities in Worth County are very good at working together and being on the same page," state House District 152 Rep. Ed Rynders said Wednesday. "You don't always see that, and it obviously helped their cause."

Rynders, a Leesburg Republican, is the chair of the House OneGeorgia Oversight Committee, and parts of Worth County are in his district.

The $2 million grant to extend the runway at the Sylvester Airport is one of the largest awarded by the OneGeorgia Authority. And the city's mayor says it will provide an economic development boost in the county.

"Right now, at about 3,400 feet long, our runway is about the fifth-shortest in the state," Sylvester Mayor Bill Yearta said. "With the grant, we'll be able to lengthen the runway to around 5,000 feet. We'll also be able to address critical safety issues by leveling out the runway and by filling in drop-offs on both ends.

"This is a big deal for economic development in the county, and it coincides well with the industrial park that we recently started developing. Now business leaders can fly directly into the community to look at our existing facilities."

The 200-acre industrial park site was also purchased partially utilizing OneGeorgia funds.

"I give a lot of credit to our city manager, Debbie Bridges, for the work she put into this process," Yearta said. "The City Council's support was important as well, and Rep. Rynders really went to bat for us. Plus, of course, we offer thanks to Gov. Perdue for his commitment to economic development in South Georgia.

"This is a project that we've been working on here for years, at least as far back as the '80s."

Rynders praised Yearta and Sylvester officials for their work during the grant process.

"I got a call two days before the OneGeorgia grant was to be given, and there were still T's to be crossed and I's to be dotted," Rynders said. "I witnessed first-hand Mayor Bill Yearta working until the 11th hour to secure this grant.

"That's the kind of leadership the public doesn't always see, but it should be applauded."

When Poulan City Clerk Jessica Jones received word that the city had been approved for the GEFA loan, she assumed that the approval involved the pre-application process. She was pleasantly surprised to find out the city had actually been awarded the grant.

"We'd gotten word that we were in the top six after the pre-application process because we'd done all our engineering work in advance," Jones, who's been with the city for six years, said. "We were excited to learn that we had indeed been awarded one of the grants to improve our water system.

"The water line that's used in Poulan was put down in the '60s for use by one person. It needs to be updated. We'll use the grant to loop the water line into the city's water system. We wouldn't have been able to do this without the grant."

Jones said Poulan officials had already sent out a request for bids and that Albany-based POPCO Inc. was the low bidder.

"The low bid actually came in well under engineers' estimates," she said. "POPCO's bid was $187,579.94, so that's even better news for the city."

Rynders said he wasn't surprised that Poulan received one of the seven GEFA grants.

"The city of Poulan has been extremely proactive in going after grants aimed at improving the infrastructure and the quality of life of its citizens," he said.

Jones said the Heritage grant was one of four awarded in the state, and it will allow city officials to make repairs on the roof of the library that was built in 1908.