South Brooksville could get needed upgrades if awarded federal grant

BROOKSVILLE — South Brooksville could get some long-needed improvements if the city succeeds in bagging a $750,000 federal community development block grant.

The city applied for the grant on July 21 in the hopes of improving aging infrastructure, including water lines, fire hydrants and sidewalks in a residential and commercial area just north of Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, said community development director Bill Geiger.

"We've long known that this is an area of the city with great needs, and this will be an important step toward meeting some of them," Geiger said this week.

If awarded, the community development grant would be the largest the city has received since 2000 when it was awarded $600,000 for downtown revitalization.

According to plans submitted with the grant proposal, about 6,000 feet of water lines would be replaced. In addition, the plan calls for 20 new fire hydrants, plus upgrades on an additional four in an effort to meet modern fire standards.

Streets that would receive new water lines and hydrant upgrades include Main, Duke, Union, Crawford, Bacon and Smith streets. In addition, Lemon, Hazel, Ellington, ACL and Asmara avenues along with Railroad Place and Wood Drive would receive similar improvements.

Additionally, the plan calls for the construction of about a mile of 5-foot-wide sidewalk that would link Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard with Russell Street, plus an additional pedestrian walkway on the southern end of Main Street.

Geiger said the city had hoped to apply for the grant two years ago, but was unable do so because the Housing and Urban Development closed its grant cycle through most of 2009. Meanwhile, Geiger and his staff completed engineering studies so that the project could be ready once grants became available again.

According to Geiger, the city has roughly 500 of a possible 1,000 points that HUD monitors toward grant proposals. If the City Council agreed to add $125,000 in matching funds, that would better the proposal in a tough grant climate, he said.

"Right now, it's difficult to evaluate where we stand against other applicants, but considering the nature of the work we want to do, we think we have a fairly good chance," Geiger said. The city is expected to hear whether the grant is approved sometime this fall.

City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said the proposal is connected to but separate from other grants being pursued by the city-county joint Community Initiatives Team, which is seeking funding for water and sewer improvements south of Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard. The hope, said Norman-Vacha, is that the joint effort will improve the city's chances of success.

However, some south Brooksville community leaders disagree, saying that the city's effort to go after its own community development grant could hurt the wider efforts by the Community Initiatives Team, whose mission he said is to bring changes to the entire community.

"It will water down what a lot of people have been working hard to build," said Paul Douglas, an environmental liaison of the NAACP. "The city knows where the greatest needs are. They had decades to fix them, but didn't."

The Rev. Clarence Clark, founder of Shiloh Problem Solvers, which runs programs out of the Sheriff's Office community center on Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, said he was skeptical of a plan to upgrade water lines and hydrants in an area that is far better off than the one located south of Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard.

"It's a good gesture, but they really need to focus on the plan that's already been approved by the community, the county and the city," Clark said.

Although he has few concerns about his department's ability to fight fires in South Brooksville, Fire Chief Tim Mossgrove said that adding new fire hydrants and upgrading others will not only improve safety, it could help attract new businesses.

"Improving infrastructure in that area will send a positive signal that we're moving forward," Mossgrove said. "Business owners like that."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

South Brooksville could get needed upgrades if awarded federal grant 08/12/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 8:00pm]

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