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By LARRY CHAMBERS
INDEPENDENCE — Independence is one of seven towns in the 13-state Appalachian Regional Commission to receive a Livable Communities technical grant.
Mayor Butch Reeves, town council members, Grayson County officials and other business leaders gathered at the McKnight lot on the corner of Main Street and Independence Ave. last Tuesday to hear details about the grant.
Earl Gohl, co-chairman of the ARC, made the announcement.
Independence officials will have to wait a few more weeks before they know how much money the town will receive. Gohl said the amount of the grant had not been determined.
Funded by the ARC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, the technical assistance grant will help small towns like Independence improve their livability by promoting economic development while safeguarding the local landscape.
The towns were selected to receive technical assistance on the basis of support from local leaders and citizens and the potential for the community to receive public and private investments to pursue their goals.
Besides Independence, other towns to receive grants included two in Pennsylvania, one in Ohio, one in North Carolina, one in West Virginia and one in New York.
The technical assistance program shows “how government agencies can come together and work with local communities to improve the quality of life for Appalachian families,” Gohl said. “Working together, we can achieve far more ambitious goals than we could working alone.”
Larry Elworth, EPA chief agricultural counselor and a former resident of Carroll County, also attended the meeting. “Through this collaboration with the Appalachian Regional Commission and the USDA, EPA is working to help Appalachian communities grow in ways that support their economies and protect the environment.”
The specific goals of the technical assistance program are to:
• Promote rural prosperity by creating an economic climate that enhance the viability of working lands, preserves natural resources and increases economic opportunities for all residents
• Support thriving and distinctive rural communities by investing in rural town centers, Main Streets and existing infrastructure to create placed that are healthy, safe and walkable
• Expand transportation choices by creating communities where everyone – including elderly, disabled, and low-income residents – can conveniently, affordably and safely access local and regional goods and services
• Expand affordable housing opportunities
Reeves said Independence being selected for the grant was “great news.”
He said Town Manager Kenneth Vaught applied for the grant earlier this year to pay for two projects — developing the McKnight lot for the weekly farmers’ market and construction and repair of sidewalks in the town.
“The money could be used to construct new sidewalks so people can walk to Independence,” Reeves said.
Independence expects to hear the amount of the grant in the next few weeks.