Representatives from the USDA recently attended a Southside groundbreaking, but it had nothing to do with planting crops in the ground.
According to state director Nivory Gordon, the groundbreaking for the new Southside fire station, which was built with a $4.1 million investment from the USDA Rural Development Program, will “greatly enhance the city’s emergency response capability.”
The new station is built on Alabama Highway 77 south of the Southside Water Works and across the street from New Seasons Church.
“Wherever you are in Alabama, when you dial 911, you expect someone to answer that call,” Gordon said. “Today, with this investment, we are empowering rural first responders and providing them with the equipment they need to help save the lives of rural Etowah County residents.”
Southside Mayor Dana Snyder said the new fire station is needed for the city’s continued growth. Fire Chief Wade Buckner said his plans to staff the new station should improve response times to medical emergencies and fire calls. The station will have capacity for four fire trucks in drive-through shafts as well as quarters to allow for the 24/7 staffing of paid and volunteer firefighters to help save lives and reduce property damage.
Buckner praised Southside volunteer firefighters for their service to their community, even though it may require them to leave their homes more than once at night to respond to calls. “You’d never know who was getting paid,” he said.
City officials praised Buckner’s efforts to find funding sources for the new station. The Nov. 16 event brought Southside officials and firefighters, members of the local legislative delegation, county leaders and mayors and firefighters from neighboring cities.
USDA is funding this project through a $4,166,000 Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program loan – an investment that will benefit 8,412 residents in rural Etowah County, Alabama.
The Community Facilities Direct Loans and Grants Program provides affordable funding for the development of essential community facilities in rural areas, according to a USDA news release. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community for the proper development of the community in a predominantly rural area and does not include private, business or commercial enterprises.
The Rural Development Program provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunity, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This aid supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas.
Just days after the Southside groundbreaking, the USDA announced the award of $700,000 in cooperative agreements to three organizations participating in Alabama’s Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge. Placemaking is a collaborative planning and technical assistance process that helps rural community leaders create quality places where people want to live, work, visit and learn, according to a news release.
- In Walker County, the Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission will use a $250,000 cooperative agreement to coordinate outdoor recreation planning to develop a destination ecotourism industry in Dora, Parrish and Nauvoo. The commission will develop strategic economic development plans for each target community, and each will be served through a detailed survey that will evaluate the ways and means of growing the outdoor recreation economy.
- In Dallas, Lowndes and Perry counties, the Conservation Fund will use a $202,396 cooperative agreement to convene a coalition of diverse partners and stakeholders to protect the many endangered civil rights and black historical sites and find ways to maximize these assets to support greater social and cultural vitality for these rural communities.
- In Dallas County, Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. will use part of a $202,396 collaborative agreement to partner with local leaders in Selma to lay the groundwork for fair, sustainable and thriving live-work-play ecosystems that can support tech entrepreneurship in the city. The organization will also use this investment to carry out similar work under this cooperative agreement in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Rutland, Vermont.