JACKSON– A USDA grant will benefit five Main Street Association cities in the state, including Water Valley, with funding for long-term planning activities designed to enhance and preserve community character and improve quality of life.
The USDA Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training (CFTAT) grant was awarded to the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) to assist Aberdeen, Baldwyn, Columbia, New Albany and Water Valley with planning activities that encompass physical improvements as well as policy adjustments.
The communities selected had to meet specific criteria including being located within a declared disaster county with a population of less than 10,000 and a median household income of less than $34,092. The communities that met this criteria were invited to apply and were selected based on demonstrating project need for the community, ability to provide a local match in funding, and the capacity to implement the project in the community.
“Winning this competitive grant is a once in a decade opportunity for Water Valley,” Water Main Street Association Director Mickey Howley explained. “We have high hopes for this grant.”
MMSA will use the USDA grant to contract with Orion Planning + Design, a national community planning and design firm with a regional office in Hernando, Miss., to provide technical assistance and training to the five communities in three phases. The project will utilize the experience of three members of the Orion Planning + Design consulting team, and two members of the MMSA staff.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area will also contribute matching funds for the four selected Main Street communities that are located within the Mississippi Hills region including Water Valley.
Planning activities will encompass physical improvements as well as policy adjustments, with the former potentially including mobility connections, streetscape enhancements and improvements, and navigational aids such as wayfinding, and the latter encompassing recommendations related to public development policy. Each of these plays a role in enhancing and preserving community character and improving quality of life.
Breakdown of the Grant
The first phase will discover and evaluate existing community conditions related to its community facilities by engaging a locally designated focus group comprised of key stakeholders who will serve as advisors for the duration of the process as well as conduct a community visit to refine the elements developed from focus group engagement.
The second phase of the CFTAT grant will be working with members in each community to identify implementable action items that will be developed and center on three core elements of community development: physical improvments, policy adjustments, and public and private investment programming.
The final phase of the grant project will be deliverables and outcomes that will be prepared in a detailed and comprehensive Community Facilities Plan. This plan will map existing community facilities, identify future community facility needs, explore the connection between existing and proposed facilities, and provide actionable steps that guide community members in implementation of the proposed improvements.
The Community Facilities Plan will be delivered to the community, and community stakeholders will receive on-site training that gives them the tools they need to implement the proposed activities.
“We are excited to partner with the Mississippi Main Street Association through our Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training program,” said John G. Campbell, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Mississippi.