US Department of Agriculture officials attended a recent groundbreaking ceremony in Southside, but it had nothing to do with planting crops.
The groundbreaking was for Southside’s new fire station, which is being built with a $4.1 million investment from the USDA’s rural development program, according to State Superintendent Nivory Gordon, which “will significantly improve the efficiency of the city’s emergency services.”
The new station will be 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 have an expectation that someone will answer that call,” Gordon said. “With this investment here today, we are empowering rural first responders and giving them the facilities they need to save the lives of rural residents in Etowah County.”
Southside Mayor Dana Snyder said the new fire station is necessary for the city’s continued growth. Fire Chief Wade Buckner said his plans for staffing the new station should improve response time for emergency medical and fire calls. The station will have space for four fire engines in drive-through bays, as well as quarters that allow it to be continuously staffed with a mix of paid and volunteer firefighters who will help save lives and reduce property damage.
Buckner commended Southside volunteer firefighters for their service to their community, even though they may have to leave their homes more than once during the night to respond to calls. “You never know who’s going to get a paycheck,” he said.
City leaders commended Buckner’s efforts to find sources of funding for the new station. The November 16 event brought together Southside officials and firefighters, members of the local Legislative Delegation, district leaders and mayors, and firefighters from neighboring cities.
The USDA is funding this project through a $4,166,000 loan under the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program – an investment that will benefit 8,412 residents in rural Etowah County, Alabama.
According to a USDA press release, the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program provides affordable funding for the development of important community facilities in rural areas. A substantial community facility is defined as a facility which provides the local community with a service essential to the orderly development of the community in a predominantly rural area and does not include any private, commercial or business venture.
The Rural Development Program provides loans and grants to 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 breaking ground at Southside, the USDA announced it had awarded $700,000 in collaborative agreements to three organizations that are part of Alabama’s Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge. Placemaking is a collaborative planning and technical support process that helps rural community leaders create quality places where people want to live, work, visit and learn, according to a press release.
- In Walker County, the Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission will use a $250,000 collaborative agreement to coordinate outdoor recreation planning to develop an ecotourism destination industry in the cities of Dora, Parrish and Nauvoo. The commission will develop strategic plans for economic development for each target community and serve each through a detailed survey evaluating ways and methods of building an outdoor recreation economy.
- In Dallas, Lowndes and Perry counties, the Conservation Fund will use a $202,396 collaborative agreement to convene a coalition of diverse partners and stakeholders to protect several vulnerable civil liberties and black history sites and find ways to recover those assets to maximize more social and community engagement support cultural vitality for these rural communities.
- In Dallas County, Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. will use a portion of a $202,396 collaboration agreement to work with local leaders in Selma to lay the foundations for equitable, sustainable and thriving live-work-play ecosystems that support tech entrepreneurship in the city. The organization will also use this investment to undertake similar work under this collaborative agreement in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Rutland, Vermont.