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Commission OKs historic site grants

Money to help places along the Liberty Trail

POSTED: May 6, 2011 9:22 a.m.

On Tuesday, the Liberty County Board of Commissioners approved five grants for local historic sites along the Historic Liberty Trail, which stretches from the coast all throughout the county.
Each of the organizations — Midway Museum, Seabrook Village Foundation, Dorchester Improvement Association, Dorchester Village Civic Center and Geechee Kunda — were granted $12,000 after the completion of an extensively detailed packet issued by the commission. The total that can be applied for during the fiscal year is $12,500.
The funding was granted through a SPLOST resolution that was passed a few years ago as a county focus on historic preservation efforts. The funds only may be used for a specific list of projects submitted by the organization to the commission, Liberty County Assistant Administrator Bob Sprinkel said.
“The commissioners, when they initially did this, really wanted to help our historic sites and it was just one of those things that it wasn’t easy to get to this point to do this,” Sprinkel said. “It’s been a long, hard task and struggle, but finally they’re there and they’re happy. It’s been very frustrating for them. They’ve been working really hard to be able to do that (give grants).”
Funds through the grant must be used for the items listed on the approved application, Sprinkel said.
“There will be a checkup and they will have to show and account for their funds,” Sprinkel said. “We feel very confident that everyone who has applied will do what they said they would do. We’re proud to have them here and we’re proud of what they do.”
The trail has 11 different sites. Officials hope that if the route is well-cared for, it may attract tourists to the county — a concept that especially is appealing to sites near the 1-95 exit in Midway, such as Dorchester Village Civic Center.
“We were thrilled to get the information that the request has been approved. These are items we need for Dorchester school. We (already) spent a fortune renovating with private funds,” DVCC President Barbara Martin said.
The center in Midway once was an old school, built in 1938. It now is the site of dances, shows, fundraisers, meetings and other community events.
Although volunteers already have raised $200,000 for renovations and restorations, it still hasn’t been enough to fix the school that Martin herself once attended. The grant will alleviate some of the burden on volunteer fundraising and allow for crucial fixes and additions to be made. With the grant, a new storage shed, septic tank, tankless water heater and ceiling fans will be installed to offset operational costs.
“To receive help like this is really gratifying,” Martin said.
Ideally, the DVCC committee hopes to one day have a coffee shop and a full-time employee to give tours, but Martin and other volunteers understand that’s a long way off.
“That’s in the future, you know, but we certainly want to think down those lines,” Martin said. “We’ve got it in good shape now. As a need arises, then we’ll make other improvements … we’re just most appreciative (of the grant).”
The SPLOST account is dedicated to helping historic sites, which do not necessarily have to be on the trail but already must have been certified as nonprofit when the SPLOST passed a few years ago, Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said. The account contains $168,000, all of which will be used to help local nonprofits.

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