Momentum continues

Oakman awarded $350K grant to restore town’s sewer operations

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/17/17

OAKMAN — The Town of Oakman is celebrating being the recipient of a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to restore their sewer lagoon, which has been the source of costly repairs for years.

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Momentum continues

Oakman awarded $350K grant to restore town’s sewer operations

Posted

OAKMAN — The Town of Oakman is celebrating being the recipient of a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to restore their sewer lagoon, which has been the source of costly repairs for years.

The CDBG grant is made possible through funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that come to the state through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). With the help of grant writer Kevin Kessler of Community Consultants, Inc., Oakman applied for a CDBG grant in August, and the town was notified this past week as a recipient.

In years past, the deteriorating condition of the town’s sewer system was always a topic of discussion, but action wasn’t taken to permanently rectify the problem. Oakman Mayor Cory Franks, who recently completed his first full year as mayor, said it simply took learning about the grant process, and ultimately applying, in order to receive help to repair the lagoon.

“Over the years, with the town maybe not having the finances to upkeep the lagoon as it needed to be, the problems got bigger and bigger,” Franks said in his office Friday afternoon, accompanied by Town Clerk Lisa Lockhart. “The lagoon is old, and the pumps are old.”

In the grant award notification letter, ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell states the $350,000 will be used to upgrade Oakman’s lagoon and lift station, which will benefit nearly 800 residents.

Oakman will be required to provide a $40,000 local match, which Lockhart and Franks said was reasonable since the town has already paid for over $10,000 of repairs to the lagoon this year and would continue having to make expensive upgrades.

Franks said most of the matching funds can be made through in-kind services provided by Oakman.

“Our street department guys who have a lot of knowledge of the lagoon will be able to alleviate some of the pricing through in-kind services,” he said.

Lockhart said having their lagoon upgraded will also be beneficial for a new business development in Oakman, as well as the growing Oakman Middle and High schools.

As town leaders look forward to 2018, they hope to recruit more businesses as a source of revenue for Oakman. In 2017, the town did find much needed revenue by implementing a new garbage pickup service through Republic Services.

“We’ll continue to look for new revenue for our town. That’s always our biggest goal is to find ways to bring more money to our community,” Franks said. “Without that happening, it’s hard to give the community the best they deserve. It takes money to do that.”

Lockhart said she will continue applying for grants to help the town move forward, as well.

“I’ve been writing them since I was 19 and went to work in the courthouse. I love writing grants,” she said.

The Oakman Senior Center, Oakman Police Department, Oakman Volunteer Fire Department and Oakman Town Hall benefited from a number of grants awarded in 2017 that helped provide new equipment and upgrades for area facilities.

Community pride was also restored in 2017 with the inaugural Day’s Gap Fest in Oakman that brought an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people to the heart of Oakman’s downtown district.

“We also plan for 2018 to have an even bigger Days Gap Fest,” Lockhart said. “We already have people calling to ask if they can be vendors. It’s exciting.”

The release date for the CDBG funds is Jan. 17, and Franks said it will be a relief to go into the new year knowing that the town’s biggest expenditure for necessary repairs will be taken care of for the community. He said he is thankful to Lockhart and everyone at Oakman Town Hall for their continued work, along with employees and volunteers at all town departments.

“Everybody works together and everybody has the same goals, the same common interests. It makes everything flow so much easier,” he said. “We’re going to continue working to improve our community and quality of life for the people of Oakman.”

The CDBG program has been providing community assistance for development needs since 1974. In August, Kessler told the Oakman community that the CDBG application is very competitive, and typically only half of the 40 to 50 applications submitted result in grant funding.