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Chiefland moves forward with grants

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

City commissioners are looking to take advantage of money that could improve Chiefland, voting unanimously in favor of several opportunities in the form of grants at Monday night's meeting.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has decided that Chiefland should get up to $25,000 to help pay for economic planning and development work done by David H. Melvin, a company that would review the city's Comprehensive and Vision plans.

Part of the work will also involve helping set up a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for Chiefland. Commissioners voted to accept the grant, applied for earlier in the year, and agreed to meet with staff later next month on the pros and cons of setting up a CRA.

A CRA, in short, would allow the city to keep more of the tax money it collects each year, as long as the money is dedicated to redevelopment in the city.

Commissioners also voted in favor of accepting a grant, worth up to $14,000, from the Florida Division of Historical Resources to help market the city's historic train depot.

City Manager Mary Ellzey told the commission that the city was ranked 6th within the state for the category and that the agency was recommending the city get full funding.

The grant, which would help pay for brochures, a website and historical research potentially enabling the depot to qualify for a historical marker designation, is still awaiting final allocation from the state, Ellzey said, adding that it would be a good idea for the commissioners to petition legislators to ensure the money is granted. Commissioners agreed to send a letter.

City leaders also thought it in the best interest of the city to apply for a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation in order to pay for improvements along Northwest 11th Drive.

Ellzey said the road, which acts as a connector on either side of U.S. Highway 19 near Walmart, has been a primary focus of the city's Vision Committee.

According to a city report, "the potential for the hospital becoming a realization for this area" means the road "will be even more important than it has been before."

Ellzey said there are two FDOT programs that could potentially pay for the project, which is projected to cost about $500,000. Both programs require support from the county to have the project put at the top of FDOT's list for Levy County, she said.

Ellzey said the city has an advantage in that City Financial Coordinator Laurie Copeland has recently received special certification that would allow the city to manage the project, which could, she said, save a lot of money for the state.

"We hope that this will be one of the selling points of the project."