Bulloch and Boro direct up to $ 2 million in federal cash to a place for the food bank


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City government officials in Bulloch County and Statesboro are proposing to allocate up to $ 2 million in federal pandemic relief funds to build a permanent home for the Statesboro Food Bank.

Half of that would come from commitments of up to $ 500,000 by the county and an additional $ 500,000 by the city from funds they receive under the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, the second plan. $ 1.9 trillion federal stimulus package. The county is expected to get $ 15.4 million in ARPA money and has already received half of that this year. The city is expected to receive $ 12.3 million and has already received half of it. So together they already have the first million dollars in hand.

Then the county would ask for the other million dollars of a special community development grant. Federal CDBG money is funneled through the states each year and made available to cities and counties in Georgia through competitive applications assessed by the state’s Department of Community Affairs. But this is a special round of funding, with applications expected on December 10, from remaining funds from the first economic relief program linked to the pandemic.

“You can talk about jobs, vocational training and other kinds of social services, but if you don’t have food you have nothing – you know, it’s food – so if we don’t can’t help you with food insecurity, then we’re falling, and the Statesboro Food Bank has a bottom line, ”county manager Tom Couch said in a telephone interview. “We want them to be successful and to be able to expand their services, and we try to facilitate that.”

This proposal was not submitted to the county commissioners council for a vote. But Couch admitted on Wednesday that he had had “gentle discussions with individual commissioners” and that he and Statesboro City manager Charles Penny had “worked behind the scenes” on the details with The board of directors. Food Bank Inc.

“I’m sure we’re going to ask the commissioners to help the food bank because, frankly, they have a story to tell,” Couch said, referring to the “displacement” of the local pantry from its current location. residence.

Waiting to move

As reported earlier this year, The Food Bank Inc., a Statesboro-based nonprofit and federally tax-exempt charity, is at risk of losing its current location in the old buildings of Julia P Elementary School. Bryant at 400 Donnie Simmons Way.

The Bulloch County School Board agreed in March to sell 10.5 acres of the 15-acre campus to a branch of WH Gross Construction Company in Kingsland. Company owner Bill Gross plans to create a senior citizen community, convert three of the old school buildings into apartments and add several new residential structures.

In exchange for ownership, Gross agreed to remove certain buildings from the part of the campus that the school district retains and also pay the district $ 400,000. However, the sale remains conditional on obtaining federal and state tax credits to finance the first phase of the project, which would contain 51 apartments.

He expects to know in October or November whether the tax credits have been approved. Otherwise, the sales contract remains valid until next year, when he can apply again.

Gym as a backup?

The timing of the move therefore remains undetermined. The food bank could stay in its current part of the old school until late next spring, possibly May or June, Gross said on the phone Friday.

If necessary later, his company could also allow the use of the old school gymnasium at the other end of the campus as a temporary food bank, he told the Statesboro Herald. The gymnasium would not be part of his planned development until the second phase, which he would not start for another year or two.

“We want to do whatever we have to do. We are not going to leave them behind. … ”Said Gross. “Look, I’m very community oriented. They provide great service, and we don’t want to hinder that in any way.

The food bank will likely need a temporary location if the first phase of Gross’s project advances. News of the CDBG grant would be expected in March, after which construction of the food bank building could begin in late spring or early summer, Couch said.

It should take “in a careful manner, with a competent architect and contractor, and if time permits, 12 to 15 months,” Couch replied in an email. “Or less, if there are no problems.”

Officials are reviewing a potential site they weren’t ready to reveal this week.

Stay in town

Penny, the city manager, said the city government will place two conditions on providing $ 500,000 of her ARPA money for the project.

“Our concern is that we want to keep the food bank within the city limits, and this is also based on the county corresponding to what we have put in place,” he said.

The mayor and city council have also not formally approved the proposal. But they expressed no objection when Penny outlined the proposed pledge as part of a scheme to use the city’s $ 12.3 million ARPA funds he presented on September 7. that amount would go entirely for the building, Penny said.

“The building should belong to the county for a few years, but what we want to do for the food bank is provide a building on which there is no payment due at the end, that it is free and clear. so they won’t have to worry about mortgage payments, ”he said.

After being owned by a county authority for at least five years and no more than 10 years, the building could be turned over to Food Bank Inc., Couch said. Until then, it would be rented out to the charity for nominal rent, say $ 1 a year, or virtually free, he said. It’s the same rent the Board of Education charged the food bank for space in two different old schools over the past decade.

In fact, the Statesboro Food Bank has occupied at least three different “temporary” buildings since its inception.

Brannon’s vision

Jodi Brannon, current COO of Food Bank Inc., said the joint city-county proposal could fulfill a long-held dream of her father, the late Joe Bill Brannon. He passed away in June 2020 after more than 25 years as a Statesboro Food Bank volunteer, much of that time as a full-time interim manager.

“It will be a permanent home for the food bank, if all goes well, and you know that was what my dad always looked for, always wanted, a permanent home for the food bank, a place that would meet our needs. keep doing what we do, ”said Jodi Brannon. “So I hope what we’ve been doing over the past two years maybe shed some light on the organization and made us worth considering using these funds for.

“I can’t think of a better use for myself,” she said, “to have something in Bulloch County that it will belong to here for as long as needed. I don’t think we will soon reach the utopia where there will be no need for food banks for people in difficulty.

While other social service organizations closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Statesboro Food Bank has remained open, switching to curbside and drive-thru distributions. With increased donor support, the organization avoided delaying services “when the need was greatest,” she said. Demand grew rapidly from early 2020, when the food bank served around 350 people per month, to around 800 people per month until the fall.

The numbers fell after federal relief programs took effect, but have since risen again, with the food bank serving about 450 people this month, Brannon estimates.

“We have been so fortunate to have the support of the community – that is, the support of the United Way, churches and local businesses, not to mention the caring people who are aware of our mission to ensure that no one is hungry, ”she said. .

Even if it moves to a new building, the food bank will need the continued support of donors and volunteers, she said. Food Bank Inc., which has only two directly paid employees, will be responsible for its utility bills, equipment and routine maintenance costs, in addition to maintaining food stocks.

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