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Porterdale set to receive grant funds
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Porterdale has received or is set to receive several grants totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars and is applying for more than $1 million more - the reward for complying with state requirements for development planning.

After being ineligible for grants for not having a comprehensive plan for its future, Porterdale has met its legal obligations and deadlines, despite a divided City Council last year. In the last several months, the city was notified of several awards for rehabilitating historic buildings and building a park along the Yellow River.

Last year, the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia assisted Porterdale in completing a comprehensive plan, opening up eligibility for state and federal funding.

"It means an absolute monumental thing for Porterdale because a lot of it has to do with river access, a lot has to do with generating activity in the business community and the potential for some light industry to come in," said Mayor Arline Chapman.

The creation of a 27-acre park, trailhead and boat launch at the Yellow River is the lynchpin of the city's comprehensive plan and central to hopes of encouraging new business development. City officials have said they hope the park would draw people to the city to play, relax or kayak and stop in the restaurants or shops along Broad Street while they were in town.

Grant applications in various stages of completion also focus on improving the condition of the housing stock and the underground sewer and storm water infrastructure.

The state and federal funds follow several years of private donation drives that have had some, albeit limited, effect. Residents have raised thousands of dollars toward installing a new roof on the Porter Memorial Gymnasium, which was gutted by a fire in 2006. However, that total is well short of the cost of a new roof.

Residents also have pitched in money and time to help repaint and perform some major maintenance on houses to help city homeowners who are struggling.

State grants saved the exterior of the historic train depot on Hemlock Street several years ago. Then last year, the city received a $250,000 Transportation Enhancements grant to renovate the depot's interior into a trailhead rest station with benches, a bike rack and water fountains, according to City Manager Bob Thomson.

In November, the National Park Service selected Porterdale's Yellow River Park project to receive technical and planning assistance. Experts from the National Park Service will advise in the development of the park, according to the grant award.

In December, the Porterdale Police Department was awarded a $10,000 technology grant, money police officials said would be used to replace old computers and servers.

Police Investigator Doug Clifton, who also serves as grant writer for the department, said the grant, which requires a 10-percent local match, will replace a server that crashed last week, update decade-old computers and install a new bar code system for the department's evidence locker.

The city currently is completing an application, due April 1, for between $500,000 and $800,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to replace aging and degraded sewer and storm water lines and to create a local city-administered fund for low-income homeowners to borrow from for home maintenance and renovations.

In November, the City Council voted to proceed with a grant application to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for up to $100,000 to defray some of the building costs of the Yellow River Park.

The grant, which would require a 20 percent local match that county officials said would be split evenly between Porterdale and Newton County, would build 2,000 feet of concrete trail, a boat launch turnaround, parking, signage and amenities.

If the Department of Natural Resources approves the grant, which is funded through the federal Department of Transportation, it would compliment other recent grants and SPLOST funding for the project.