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Repair grant for Milstead Streets
Neglected historic neighborhood in need of basic infrastructure
Milstead natives Barbara Wilson and Kate Dixon walk through the neighborhood where they grew up. - photo by Photo by Michelle Kim

Some of the most historic neighborhoods in Rockdale are also some of the most forgotten and in the most need of repair.

In the turn-of-the-century two-room mill houses along Yellow and Grimes Street, leaking roofs and walls, sagging and crumbling bathroom floors are easy to find. And when it rains, the water rushes off the road and sits in yards, making health and structural problems that much worse.

Across the river and down Ga. Highway 20 on unpaved Yarborough Street, a lack of fire hydrant access meant firefighters could only watch when a car burned down several years ago and hope it didn’t take nearby mill houses or trailers with it, said residents.

To begin the process of bringing basic infrastructure such as a drainage system and fire hydrants to these forgotten corners of Milstead, the county is looking at applying for a Community Development Block Grant, which could bring in up to $500,000.

The grant would require a minimum match of $10,000 from the county. But the county is looking at investing up to $75,000 for planning, to make the project "shovel ready" and more appealing for a CDBG grant, said Grants Administrator Alice Cintron.

"This project meets all those requirements and is a neighborhood that exists that has a lot of historical value," said Cintron at the Feb.10 public hearing.

The county also recently received Community Home Investment Program grant from the Department of Community Affairs to repair five homes in the Milstead area. If the application for the CDBG grant is successful, the county would be able to do a package of repairs and projects at the same time, said Cintron.

At the hearing, lifelong resident Beverly Rome described how rainwater water runs off Grimes Street and festers under her parent’s house until it can be pumped out.

Melanie Crowder said her 85-year-old mother still resides in the neighborhood and the water causes health problems and structural problems, since house is always wet at the foundation. "Anything would be an improvement," she said.

Barbara Williams, who also grew up on the street and still lives there, agreed. "This has been on hold too long," she said.

The county had previously applied for a CDBG grant of about $300,000 for the neighborhood in 2005, but was turned down.

Pastors Anthony and Mary Turner of Living Water Christ Church on Grimes Street have been down this road before. They were heavily involved in the legwork o1f the 2005 application, collecting pictures and surveys and attending a grant writing class.

It was frustrating to see all their work come to nothing, said Mary Turner. But they are hopeful.

"We need help," said Anthony Turner.

These houses, built at the turn of the century by Callaway Mills for mill workers and their families, were erected before electricity, indoor plumbing or insulation was available.

Many of the residents are older or in lower income brackets and do not have the funds to do the extensive repairs needed.