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Porterdale seeks $266K community grant
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Substandard housing is the target of a $266,623 grant the city is seeking as part of an overall effort to upgrade neglected areas.

The Porterdale City Council agreed to a resolution during a call meeting last week to support the Community Development Block Grant administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. If approved, the grant will fund the renovation of eight houses in the historic mill village that has gone into disrepair.

The grant will benefit low-income homeowners, who were selected through interviews conducted over the last four months by city staff and the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission.

Nina Kelly, NEGRC project manager, explained to the council at the March 22 meeting that the grant will involve eight houses in and around the Rose Hill neighborhood on Rose, Pink, North Broad, Ivy, Hazel and Laurel streets.

The city is not required to put up a matching percentage of the grant but has to outline an owner participation plan in the application. Kelly said that part will be $5,500 in low-interest loans the residents of the houses have agreed to take out to help fund the renovation work. The loans will be administered through the Porterdale Downtown Development Authority.

Kelly said it was important for the residents to have a stake in the work but acknowledged they were limited due to their income.

"We felt, and through discussions, that making it available as a low-interest loan to homeowners that they will eventually pay back through the DDA will make that more palpable," she said.

Porterdale City Manager Bob Thomson said the grant is a part of an ongoing revitalization of the Rose Hill neighborhood. The city has a contract for curb and gutter installation.
City staff and volunteers are also planting roses in pocket parks and paving a dirt street on the city's capital improvement projects list.

Thomson mentioned the DDA loan program and added the other improvement projects should help toward winning the grant award.

"That doesn't go toward the cash match, obviously, but it does show to the Department of Community Affairs that the town is interested in actively investing [in the area]," he said.

"It helps," he added.

The grant was filed with DCA this week and city officials should find out results of the grant award sometime this summer.

Kelly added if Porterdale is awarded the grant, the city will then be able to apply for other Community Development Block Grants annually instead of every other year as required by the DCA.

A meeting is also scheduled for April 14 to begin the process to build the 31-acre Yellow River Park that will run from the Broad Street bridge north toward Porterdale's historic depot.

The park is funded through a $100,000 Recreation Trails Program grant awarded to the county and the city of Porterdale by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The county and city each put up $10,000 in matching funds. Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk is coordinating the project.

The park will have an entry gateway at the corner of Broad and Railroad streets, a loop trail and fishing access to the river. Delk explained to the council last week the city and county will need to start deciding what features they want in the park. She called the April 14 an "envisioning session."

"There's a lot of things we need to talk about the grant before we hire a consultant and get down to the details," Delk said. "We have a lot of old timers who drive down here to fish. Do we want to prohibit driving down there? Do we want driving down there? It would be good to get all of these questions on the table."

The Yellow River Park is the first trailhead for Newton County as part of a planned network of multi-use trails that will eventually connect Porterdale, Oxford and Covington with the Georgia International Horse Park in Rockdale County.