State’s Delta region receives $2.2M aid
Written by: Nathan Owens
Published by: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The Delta Regional Authority is awarding $2.2 million to partially fund state projects to improve roads, water systems and facilities in rural areas.
The money will go to eight projects in the Delta region of Arkansas, creating or retaining 91 jobs and affecting 255 families, data from the regional authority show.
More than half of the investment is earmarked for road and rail improvements, less than a quarter for water and sewage system improvements and the rest for other projects such as a new helicopter hangar and nursing facility.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state’s congressional delegation issued statements on Monday, saying how grateful they were for the Delta Regional Authority’s investment.
“The money will go to improve street safety, improve and expand sewer systems, enhance medical response, provide high-speed internet and better phone service and increase opportunities for many who want to pursue a nursing degree,” Hutchinson said. “I am grateful for DRA’s thoughtful consideration.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., said Washington, D.C. often struggles to see the need to invest in rural infrastructure and called this investment “welcome news.”
It will “create more jobs, economic growth and generally improve life in Arkansas,” Crawford said.
Congress established the Delta Regional Authority in 2000 to use federal appropriations for infrastructure improvements in the Delta region that includes Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
Under federal law, at least 75% of the authority’s funds must be invested in economically distressed counties and parishes, according to its website. That means they must have an unemployment rate that is 1% higher than the national average for the most recent 24-month period, and a per capita income of 80% or less of the national per capita income.
“These investments are fantastic news for Arkansas and I look forward to seeing the new developments that emerge,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.
The regional authority’s grant covers about 8% of the $26.3 million in total project costs. Public and private funds are covering the rest, said a spokesman with the organization.
The $2.2 million came from the authority’s grant program that makes strategic investments into projects supporting basic public infrastructure, road improvements, business development, workforce training and education.
Last year the States’ Economic Development Assistance Program invested $2 million into 12 projects that mostly improved rural water lines and sewage systems in, or near, the Delta region of Arkansas.
The 2019 grant funding has been designated for:
• Helena-West Helena, $589,000 to improve Washington Street.
• Monticello, $509,000 to help build a new railroad overpass.
• The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, $295,000 to expand programs and services at its economic research and development center.
• Marshall, $231,770 to extend sewer lines for a new hotel and increase sewage capacity.
• Wilmar, $200,000 to help pay for improvements to its sewage treatment plant.
• Black River Technical College at Pocahontas, $153,139 to help build a new training facility for nurses.
• Fairfield Bay, $145,431 toward a new helicopter hangar for emergency medical purposes.
• The Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, $104,764 for a fiber-optic cable for high-speed internet and phone services in the Walnut Ridge Industrial Park.