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Concordia leaders go after $1M grant

VIDALIA — Meeting on Friday the 13th might not sound like a smart idea, but Concordia Parish Leaders turned the bad luck day into good news for its residents.

Last Friday’s trip to Tallulah garnered some good news for area residents as the mayors from municipalities in Concordia, Catahoula, Tensas, Madison and East Carroll parishes met to talk about a possible grant available through Sustainable Communities and Regional Planning.

If awarded the grant, the parishes would receive $1 million total of funding to help the areas by improving housing, transportation and economic development.

Ken Walker, city manager for Vidalia, went to Tallulah for the meeting and said the grant is something the area really needs.

“This is a planning grant that is put together by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Walker said. “If we are awarded it, we would have one professional come in to help fix all of the problems we have in these areas.”

The grant was originally for the towns of Vidalia, Ferriday, Clayton and Jonesville, but was later changed to the five parishes located on the river.

“This is a grant that is looking for a regional concept,” he said. “Because of this we invited the other river parishes to join.”

Walker said the grant would be used to develop a plan to address housing needs in the areas mentioned, and to help find a way to improve transportation.

“You need housing to promote better jobs, and better jobs to promote housing,” he said. “There are not any good jobs without any good places to live.”

Heather Malone, executive director for Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development, said the grant would help even more in the long run if the governments are awarded it.

“If the areas get their plans together on how to develop the region, they would also be given the chance to receive another $2 million three years after the first grant was received,” she said.

Along with the news of the possible grant, Concordia Parish residents were also struck with some more news about the development of their parish.

Broadband connectivity in the area is also getting a boost.

Malone said the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is going to help the broadband connectivity in a 12-parish area.

The cost of this project is approximately $80 million and would lay fiber-optic cables in the parishes, not provide actual service.

“They are not going to connect people to service providers,” Malone said. “They are just going to lay the cable so that actual service providers will move to the area.”

Malone said the addition of these cables is something to look forward too.

“If you have broadband, you can improve anything,” she said. “The small rural hospitals could use their Internet capabilities to connect to doctors in larger areas.”

Malone said this is only one example of how things would improve through the broadband connectivity.

“Having broadband in the area can also help economic development,” she said. “Having a service that was previously hard to come by makes it a lot easier on everyone.”

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