The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 21, 2014

Grants will help small towns complete projects

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — More than a dozen communities in northwest Oklahoma are pegged to receive more than $1 million in state grants for economic development projects.

The projects, which were approved by Northern Oklahoma Development Authority’s board of directors, include the construction of water and sewer infrastructure, street improvements and assistance to rural fire departments.

NODA Executive Director Mareta Woodard said the Rural Economic Action Plan grants still await final approval from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Each recipient also must enter into a contract for the funds. Woodard plans to send out award letters by Feb. 1.

“It’s probably the best program NODA does. It benefits so many people,” Woodard said. “It just makes bigger and better projects.”

Lagoon repair

Pond Creek Business Manager Art Curl expects this round of grant funding, worth at least $100,000, will help his small town finish repairing its wastewater treatment facility. It became apparent about five years ago the town’s sewer treatment lagoon dikes were eroding.

“And the erosion got bad enough that we actually were going to breach a primary cell into another one,” Curl said.

With the help of REAP, the job is nearly done.

“We should be able to finish the last two cells, and then our lagoons will be top shape,” he said.

The original lagoon system was built near a river, but the state told the town to relocate it. In 1993, it was moved about a half-mile outside Pond Creek. In the meantime, Curl said, western Oklahoma’s weather caused it to loosen its footing. The refurbishing project has helped Pond Creek add new dirt and other erosion control materials.

NODA’s help

Without NODA, which administrates grants and helps budget-strapped small towns with professional-level staff work, Pond Creek would have had to borrow the money to fix its lagoons.

“For small communities, NODA is so important. We really appreciate them,” Curl said. “It’s important to small communities, and those projects aren’t cheap.”

Pond Creek’s wastewater treatment system was built with the help of a low-interest government loan, but was set up to be paid back over a 44-year term.

The energy boom has added a cushion to the town’s budget.

“Now we’re able to pay a little extra on that note and hopefully in the next two years we’ll be totally repaired and have that thing paid for,” Curl said.

Grant money

The REAP grant program was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1996 to fund infrastructure projects in rural communities with populations fewer than 7,000.

In Helena, $100,000 in REAP funds will go toward building a new water tower and water well.

“There’s going to be more storage and more water for us. With the prison here, it uses most of our water,” said Helena water operator Rodney Simmering. “We usually don’t have a problem unless it’s the hot summer months when everybody’s watering their gardens.

“We’re not in a bind now, but in the future, we don’t want to be in a bind, either.”

Woodard hopes to use the REAP funds as matching money for more grants, including Community Development Block Grants later this year. Some of the projects on the list approved by NODA could receive up to $400,000 in all, she said.

NODA’s board approved REAP grants for the following projects:

• Helena — water system, $100,000.

• Tonkawa — wastewater system improvements, $150,000.

• Morrison — medical facility, $100,000.

• Ringwood — wastewater system improvements, $127,640.

• Pond Creek — wastewater system improvements, $100,000.

• Braman — water system improvements, $47,900.

• Fairview — Water system improvements, $123,700.

• Perry — economic development /streets, $50,000.

• Blaine County District 2 — economic development/streets, $100,000.

• Goltry — electrical system improvements, $48,378.

• Bear Creek (Kay County) Rural Fire — new station, $75,000.

• Lucien (Noble County) Rural Fire — truck bed, $25,000.

• Eagle City (Blaine County) Rural Fire — building improvements, $32,170.

• Orion (Major County) Rural Fire — truck improvements, $15,797.