Grants fund Rutledge cleanup, water projects

Published 11:34 am Saturday, April 27, 2024

By Lanell Downs Smith

The Town of Rutledge is set to launch cleanup and improvement projects, thanks to grant awards which will fund water system improvements and the demolition of around 19 dilapidated buildings.

The town received a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in November 2023. The grant program was designed to reinforce important values and principles of community development, and town leaders have taken that directive to heart, with plans to demolish a number of empty, dilapidated buildings around town.

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“The demolition grant includes the demolition of dilapidated houses, trailers and any structures that are presenting safety issues,” said Councilwoman Rita Brown. “Our main goal is to revitalize the community for safety and growth. We aim to clean up the Town of Rutledge so that our town and community as a whole can grow and prosper.”

According to Mayor Steve Phillips, town officials applied for grant funds for four years before finally being approved. The addition of a building inspector and planning board helped secure the award that will fund demolition of 19 town structures and potentially more later on.

“We set up a board of corrections, so if someone disagrees with the planning commission or the building inspector, they can go to the board,” Phillips said. “We presented all that in the last application and we got it this time. The money is $350,000 and at last count we had 19 structures to be torn down.”

Buildings set for demolition are owned by town residents, who applied to have them taken down by the town, Phillips explained.

“It doesn’t have to be a house,” Phillips said. It can be a house, house trailer, outbuilding, it doesn’t matter what it is. If you want it torn down, and we have the funds to do it, we will do it. We will bid the project out in the next month or so.” 

The town also received the award of a $399,525 Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grant, money which will fund replacing existing water meters with new automatic radio-read meters and a meter reading system.

The grant also funds the tearing down of a water tower erected in 1966. Phillips said the water tower, an historic landmark of the town’s landscape, presents a safety hazard and must come down to prevent damage to surrounding structures in the event the tower falls during a storm.

“It’s a safety hazard,” Phillips said. “If we get a good, strong storm, it could come down. The state said it is a safety hazard. I would really like to be able to keep it, but we don’t have a lot of options.”

Photos by Lanell Smith