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Walthourville preparing for growth from new troops
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The Walthourville City Council met with residents and business owners over bacon and eggs Tuesday morning to celebrate what officials called recent successes and to discuss plan.
The council has undertaken a number of projects the last few months in preparation for expected growth in the city over the next five years, mostly stemming from the planned troop buildup on Fort Stewart.
Nearly 4,000 new troops are scheduled to arrive at the installation by 2011, when the post gains a new infantry brigade combat team as part of the Army's initiative to become a more modular fighting force.
Including family members and brigade support personnel, the influx is expected to have an immediate impact of approximately 12,000 individuals and reach just under 30,000 people by 2013.
With Fort Stewart officials only planning to house about 25 percent of the additional families on base, Walthourville, like most municipalities in Liberty County, wants to share in accommodating the other 75 percent of families needing shelter.
A key component in facilitating these families will be upgrading the city's infrastructure, beginning with water and sewage systems, which city engineer Ben Turnipseed said is in good shape after years of stalls and contract problems.
"The city of Walthourville has made several improvements as it relates to the sewage system," the engineer told guests seated around tables inside the Walthourville City Hall. "(City officials) have entered into an agreement with Hinesville to treat all of the city's wastewater and the city has a large grant and loan from the (U.S. Department of Agriculture's) rural development program."
Turnipseed said the "loan portion will be used to extend sewer lines" to parts of the city currently lacking access to the sewer system.
"The design of (the additional lines) should be complete sometime this year," he said. "And construction will hopefully be starting before the end of the year."
Turnipseed said because Georgia's "new statewide water plan limits the amount of water that can be drawn from wells in Liberty County," Walthourville is looking into a neighboring county to obtain an additional well to meet increasing demand.
"We're in negotiations with Long County and hopefully we will be able to drill a well in Long County where we presently serve several residents," he said. "Then the city would have three wells."
While infrastructure and growth was a major part of the discussion, improving the housing of some of the city's poorest residents was also a leading topic.
The city received a $300,000 Community HOME Investment Program grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in September to rehabilitate the houses of low-income homeowners living in substandard conditions.
Grant consultant Patricia Waye said she has met with about 20 homeowners and has completed "pre-inspections on the homes and identified the problems that are present in the homes and what needs to be done to bring these homes up to state standards."
Cost estimates for each applicant, she said, have also been completed and the next step is working out financial plans for homeowners before deciding which of them will participate in the program.
Having worked with CHIP grants for over a decade, Waye commended city officials for their efforts to improve the quality of housing in the community.
"I've seen how this program improves the standard of living, especially for the elderly who now live on fixed incomes," she said. "I applaud the city of Walthourville for taking on this program and participating in this grant program to help the citizens."
Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray said upgrading homes in the city is only the beginning of the changes she and the council have planned to "improve the lifestyles of all the citizens of Walthourville."
"We?re working to get more jobs here and we're hoping to have a downtown Walthourville one day," the mayor said. "These are just some of the things we're trying to work on and come together and make this city what it should be."
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