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State grant will fund more than half of $950,000 in downtown work

Receiving nearly $500,000 in state grant money last week wasn't good news for the City of Thomson.

It was great news.

In the wake following the surprising announcement from the Georgia Department of Transportation, city officials have since heralded it as a giant first step forward towards revitalizing downtown Thomson.

"Obviously we're very pleased with the grant award, and we will use that money very wisely to help make our downtown a better place to shop and have people coming back and forth. So I think it's really going to help us out a lot," said Thomson Mayor Bob Knox.

When city leaders submitted the grant application late last year, they asked for approximately $790,000. However, Thomson City Administrator said last week that he didn't expect to receive more than $300,000 from the application.

"We were pleased with the size of the grant that we received," he said. "...(But) we've obviously got to cut the budget. We'll just simply be revising the budget, trying to determine what would be the best to do and what order to do it."

Over the next few weeks, local officials will be getting together with engineers and other representatives from DOT to decide what parts of the original project -- which totals nearly $950,000 when engineering and planning costs are calculated -- will be addressed first.

Mr. Flanders also didn't discount the possibility that the city would look to other funding sources in the future, whether it's another DOT grant next year, SPLOST funds or even a Community Development Block Grant. When local leaders originally submitted the grant application, they were hoping for enough money to repair sidewalks, improve street lights and renovate pedestrian crossings along Main Street. Time will tell whether all of the needed improvements can be made with the money that's been awarded.

Other local officials said they were happy that the downtown revitalization has gotten off to a good start. Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce Director Carolyn Gilbert said the money comes at a good time for the city, as many local leaders have expressed an interest to make the downtown area a safer and more accessible area.

"I'm ecstatic; this is the boost we need, the shot in the arm to get this started," she said. "This is going to happen this time. Lots of people are working on it. ... It was important because this just makes it snowball. You get one thing, and then you find a way to get something else."

She said that the Downtown Development Authority will be meeting over the next few months to better plan out what will be the next step in the revitalization process.



Web posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004


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