Drakes awarded USDA grant

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, December 24, 2019

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The Town of Drakes Branch and its volunteer fire department were notified on Dec. 16 that they are the recipients of a USDA grant and loan that will help with building and equipment needs following Tropical Storm Michael that left the town’s municipal building and fire department damaged by floodwaters.

The town and fire department share the same building.

The town and fire department applied separately for a grant/loan through the USDA under the Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant.

According to State Director of Rural Development Elizabeth Walker Green with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Town of Drakes Branch will receive a $17,000 loan and a $50,000 grant.

Green says the funds will be used to purchase a truck for the Public Works Department and furniture and equipment for the new town municipal building that is planned for construction.

The Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department will receive a $20,000 loan and a $50,000 grant.

According to Green, those funds will be used for, “A truck for hauling rescue and fire equipment, office equipment and office furniture.”

Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Chief Kenny Tharpe said the department is grateful for the funding help, as they will have to relocate and build out of flood zone.

According to Tharpe, the grant will not help with the actual construction cost of the new department.

“While we’re glad to receive some disaster recovery money for furniture & equipment, we certainly hope we never go through anything like that (flood) again,” he said. “We will never forget that day, especially the lives lost.”

Town council member Noah Davis noted that the town has been very proactive in applying for grants following the tropical storm that affected the area in October 2018.

“Applying for these grants has been a team effort,” said Davis. “I am very thankful for everyone who has worked very diligently to achieve this goal. Thanks to this grant, the town will be able to furnish our new municipal building, and the fire department will be able to purchase equipment.”

At its Aug. 5 meeting, the Drakes Branch Town Council voted to build a new municipal building along with the fire department.

Following the flooding of the municipal building, two fire trucks have been displaced, and portions of the building are unusable.

Construction plans are currently underway for the new building that will be located across the street out of the flood zone, from the damaged building.

“Hopefully, soon, we will have a building that the whole community will be proud of,” said Tharpe.