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Lee County officials learn about community development options

Georgia Department of Community Affairs offers assistance in getting federal and state grant money

Leesburg City Councilman Sidney Johnson, left, Rep. Ed Rynders and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Niki Knox are shown during a DCA workshop Friday in Leesburg. The object of the meeting was to make the city and county aware of the DCA’s programs and available grant money. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

Leesburg City Councilman Sidney Johnson, left, Rep. Ed Rynders and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Niki Knox are shown during a DCA workshop Friday in Leesburg. The object of the meeting was to make the city and county aware of the DCA’s programs and available grant money. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

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Rick Muggridge

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Bob Alexander

LEESBURG — The Georgia Department of Community Affairs held a workshop Friday with Lee County officials to help make the city and county aware of various programs the DCA offers that could help get federal and state funding flowing into the community.

Every grant application submitted by local government goes through the DCA, which reviews, approves and awards grant applications.

“Our job is to work with elected officials understand our programs, and we offer to help them along the way,” DCA Director of Governmental Relations Niki Knox said. “We are very much like a clearing house in that we offer 65 different programs designed to aid Georgia’s communities. We provide assistance in three areas — community and economic development and housing assistance.”

How important was the workshop? The Lee County Commission, the Leesburg City Council, Leesburg City Manager Bob Alexander, Lee County Manager Ron Rabun, Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn and state Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, were in attendance.

According to its website, the DCA has served as an advocate for the state’s communities since 1977 with the mission of partnering with communities to help create a climate of success for Georgia’s families and businesses. In FY 2013 the DCA managed more than $280 million in federal and state funds in the form of grants for community for community, economic and housing development throughout the state.

“There is a lot of money out there for rural Georgia in downtown development funding,” Rynders said. “But you have to be aggressive in pursuit of the money. There are a lot of communities out there going after this funding. Always keep a program in the hopper, because I promise you that you won’t get the money if you don’t ask for it.”

The meeting left a definite impression on Lee County Commission Chairman Rick Muggridge.

“What I took away from the meeting is that we really need to be more aggressive when asking for money from the feds and the state,” Muggridge said. “We are looking into marketing and maybe getting a grant writer to help us. My No. 1 priority right now is the development of southwest Lee County, and we can start with the Forester Road extension, then Marlow and Westover.”

Alexander was also pleased with the session.

“They (the DCA) provided some valuable information in regard to downtown development,” Alexander said. “We are considering putting together a downtown development authority, and we want a group of seven or so people who are interested in revitalizing downtown. And we’ll be working very closely with the DCA along the way.”