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"It's going to improve the quality of life": Madison and Suwannee counties making infrastructure improvements thanks to state grants

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced nearly $11 million for rural North Florida Monday
Posted at 6:53 PM, Feb 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 18:53:51-05

GREENVILLE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced three rural North Florida counties are getting money to improve infrastructure in Madison County Monday morning.

Through the Rural Infrastructure fund and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Community Development Block Grant program, Madison, Suwannee, and Putnam counties will rake in nearly $11 million collectively.

The Governor made that announcement at Grumpy's Diner in Madison County Monday.

The town of Greenville in Madison County will get $300,000 through the Rural Infrastructure Fund. According to the Governor's office, that money is in "preparation of a feasibility study and preliminary engineering services to extend centralized water and sewer services to the route along the Honey Lake health facility clinic."

In Suwannee County, $5 million is coming in through the Community Development Block Grant-CV to build a multi-use facility.

Greenville Mayor Brittni Brown says it's nice to see her small community get some assistance.

"For so long, in my opinion, Greenville has been the forgotten town in Madison County," said Mayor Brown.

Brown says this money will also help the town switch from septic to sewer, ultimately changing water quality for the better.

"It's going to improve the quality of life for the residents of Greenville," she said.

Town Manger Lee Jones says water quality is just one piece of his plan for the town.

"It's called Greenville 2.0, but we affectionately call it GV2. It's the next level of Greenville. It's economic development. It's housing. It's businesses. It's recreation. Everything that makes a modern town go is in this plan," he said.

The fund bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars this go around is focused on driving the economy in small towns.

According to the Governor's office, "The purpose of the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) Grant is to facilitate the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects in rural communities which will encourage job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies."

The Greenville 2.0 plan is primarily funded through grants like that.

Within the next three to five years, leaders say you'll be able to see a difference.

Town CEO Lee Jones says more than just the people who live here in Greenville are noticing.

"We have a lot of businesses and developers now reaching out to Greenville to say 'Hey, how can we get in on the ground floor as you guys are taking this town to the next level?'" said Jones.

The investment in the small town has people like Byron Calton excited.

"They're doing a lot in Greenville to make it better," he said.

Calton says one of the biggest improvements is the new grocery soon to open. It will be the first option in the town; saving people a drive that ranges from 30 minutes to an hour.

"If you need an onion to make a soup, you've got to go to Madison or Monticello. It helps a lot," said Calton.

Construction on the store is about 85% complete.

In 2020, Greenville received a $2 million grant from the state to build the grocery store. The grant also allowed the town to build a new community center. The Town CEO says that construction is about 95% complete.

Still, Calton sees other areas of opportunity for the town to look into.

"A rural town like Greenville needs 5G to communicate and educate. They don't have connection with the outside as well," he said.

Meanwhile, Suwannee County Administrator Randy Harris says the county is planning to build its multi-million dollar multi-use building.

"For local communities, like ours, there's always lots of events that we can use a building like that, for. But also a storm shelter and times natural disaster hurricanes things of that nature," he said.

The building will also have a COVID related feature.

"If we have another wave of the COVID virus, where we have to quarantine people," he said. "That was the problem that we realized a couple of years ago. Even for our first responders, if they contracted the virus, while working, they were taking that virus home with them. They were making inquiries, as to whether or not we had a suitable place to house those people. We did not."

He says the focus on small counties is a breath of fresh air.

"I actually come from much larger county where there was lots of funding. I've been in Suwannee county for about 12 years. I realized just how difficult it is. You can identify a project, but it can take many, many years before you can find the funding to actually undertake that project," he added.

The building already has a home on about 30 acres of land in the county. However, there are no site plans yet. Harris believes it'll be up and running in about two years.