Madison County leaders are seeking $7.5 million in federal funds for infrastructure upgrades.
And talk of the topic was tense at the Sept. 22 industrial authority meeting as county commission chairman Todd Higdon took issue with IDA executive director Frank Ginn regarding the grant application process.
Higdon said Ginn was dragging his feet on applying for federal funds. Ginn said he wasn’t, that he was waiting on Higdon on paperwork.
“I’m going to try to say this calmly,” Higdon said to Ginn and the IDA. “We got to do a better job on the time frames. We can’t wait until the last minute. I just done department head reviews yesterday, and if I had to put yours (Ginn) on there, based on the time frames and the crunches, everything is an emergency, you would be failing.”
Ginn responded: “I asked you for a letter.”
Madison County was allocated $5.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) money, and the county has half of that in its possession with the other half slated to be received next year. Commissioners want to use $2.5 million of that to seek another $7.5 million in federal money to address county infrastructure needs, which would give them $10 million to spend on infrastrucure. The county industrial authority oversees water and sewer infrastructure in Madison County.
The state government also received federal funds that it will distribute to local governments for various projects, but cities and counties must go through an application process to get that money.
Local governments were initially given an Aug. 31 deadline to submit applications for those grant funds. And governments across the state felt the rush to get the application submitted. The state then extended that deadline to Oct. 31.
Ginn asked the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NGRC) to assist in the grant application process. He said applying through a regional commission would improve the county’s chances of getting the grant. Ginn was told that the request needs to come through the board of commissioners, not the IDA. He asked Higdon to submit a letter to the NGRC.
“Basically I reached out to the regional commission and asked Eva Kennedy to assist me in making the application, make sure we’re crossing all the Ts, dot the I’s,” said Ginn.
Higdon said Ginn failed to communicate with the BOC in seeking the help from the NGRC.
“I think the board needs to know about what we’re doing because there’s going to be a cost there,” said Higdon. “And I don’t know if you actually got a dollar figure or quote on what the cost will be. And I have concerns about that.”
Higdon added that the grant application is about five pages long and could be completed before lunch.
“It seems like over here in this department and this board, you had an Aug. 30 deadline,” he said. “Thank God it got extended, because you wouldn’t have met it, because you waited until the last second. Now here we are, 22nd of September, we got a deadline, it still hasn’t moved even though you had an Aug. 30 deadline and now you’re requesting to jump through hoops, but you ain’t even seen it yet. If you’re the director of this IDA, you should have done seen this grant. This is a $10 million deal. How in the hell do you not know what you’re supposed to do next? I’m pissed about it. I think y’all dropped the ball, kicked the can. Something’s going on over there, but the time is not being used wisely.”
Higdon added: “Why are you going to pay someone? This is a broke bunch, the IDA, we struggle to pay our bills. Why would we pay someone else to do this? Please explain that.”
Just so you know, I wear two hats,” said Ginn. “You can jump on me if you want to.”
“I’m not jumping on you,” said Higdon. “I’m trying to make it clear you always wait until the last minute on everything.”
“Who’s waiting on the last minute? I’m waiting on you,” said Ginn.
“You are now, but you done missed the Aug. 30 deadline,” said Higdon.
“It got extended,” said Ginn.
“Thank God!” replied Higdon.
IDA chairman Josh Chandler cut off the discussion and told Higdon: “Please stop cutting me off, sir.”
Chandler said the IDA needed to get a price quote from the NGRC to give to the BOC and a determination could be made quickly on whether the county will handle the process in house or with NGRC assistance. Ginn said a letter from the BOC stating that they will stand by the $2.5 million commitment is also needed.
IDA member Marc Perry said, “I thought we had the grant application.”
“We need to know what questions are and get answers,” said Perry. “We need to gather that information and knowing what we’re looking for. It needs to be happening at the same time.”
Audience member Gary Harvin asked about how the $10 million in federal funds would be used. The BOC asked the IDA this summer to provide a list of potential infrastructure upgrades that might be paid for with federal funds. Harvin said water line projects aren’t as important as Madison County establishing its own water source and no longer relying on purchasing water from other counties.
“Why is the first water line project not to develop our own water source in this county?” Harvin asked the IDA.
Chandler asked him if he knew where to drill a hole.
“There’s people who could tell you,” said Harvin.
“Do you know how expensive and what a risk it is to do that?” asked Ginn.
Earlier in the meeting, Ginn spoke of the potential use of an old well on James Holcomb Road that draws 330 gallons per minute but would need a filtration system. Some equipment was also accidentally dropped down that well years ago, which could cause problems.
Harvin said that well could be a good water source and Ginn said that’s being explored.
Chandler said that if the additional $7.5 million in federal money is received from the state, it won’t be enough to develop a water source to serve the whole county.
“Now would it be great to go build a reservoir and have a surface treatment pond?” he asked. “Yeah, that would be terrific, but you’re not going to touch it with $10 million.”
Ginn said water is purchased from surrounding counties because immediate water needs must be met.
“The fastest way for the development authority to meet its immediate demand was to purchase outside water, because developing other water sources takes a good bit of time,” said Ginn.
“I’ve developed other water sources, Frank,” said Harvin. “I know what it takes.”
Harvin asked what the IDA is doing to provide its own water source in the county.
“We’re exploring that,” said Ginn.
“Pretty broad, but OK,” said Harvin.
HAVE A WELL THE COUNTY COULD USE?
Along those lines, Ginn, IDA members and the BOC are interested in contracting for the use of private wells along its major water lines in the county to help Madison County be more self reliant in terms of water flow. One potential line off Commerce Neese Road was discussed last week. County leaders ask that property owners with potential wells for use along major water lines who may be interested in selling water to the county contact the IDA. There are requirements on the quantity and quality of the water that must be met.
IDA OFFICE MOVING
The industrial authority and water department has been in the process of moving over the past several weeks from a building off the courthouse square to the old elections office off Rock Quarry Road.