GAINESVILLE – It’s been said that good things come to those who wait, and when it comes to applying for federal dollars to construct a public park, that saying is amplified.
But at long last the good news has arrived and it was shared Thursday evening at the Hall County Commission meeting by District 4 Commissioner Jeff Stowe.
“I have some exciting news to share,” Stowe said enthusiastically at the end of the voting session. “Hall County is now in the final stages of making the new District 4 Butler Park a reality.”
“We have been given the go-ahead to make a public notification…announcing the start of a thirty day public comment period,” Stowe said.
“Once the thirty day public comment period has been completed the director of the National Park Service will sign-off on the project and we expect to receive a ‘Notice to Proceed’ within sixty to ninety days,” he explained.
The county has pledged $250,000 towards the project but has been unable to use any of that funding because it could have possibly jeopardized the federal award.
Stowe confided that applying for and receiving federal funding is not an overnight excursion. “It’s a slow process; we’ve been waiting on this ‘go-ahead’ for eighteen months.”
Stowe said bringing a new park to the Athens Street area has been atop his list of priorities ever since he took office seven years ago.
“Our hope is to begin construction this fall,” Stowe said. “Construction of the park will be overseen by Hall County’s Construction Division.”
“More information about how to participate in the public comment period will be released next week,” he added.
After the meeting Stowe said the county has been proactively getting ready in case the county won approval for the project from the National Park Service. “Staff has been working behind the scenes in getting us ready so once we get funds…we hope to break ground…sometime in late September or early October.”
Stowe said the final dollar amount approved by the federal government is also a bit of a surprise. “We actually got a little more money than we were expecting. “ The county had applied for $536,500, “…and we got a little over $600,000!”
Commission Chairman Richard Higgins thanked Stowe for working patiently and persistently on the project for the past several years. “If you had seen the land when he started out and where it is now…I mean it was a huge gulley and we got a lot of dirt from the hospital, and just a lot of things fell in place.”
Stowe said, “We think it’ll take four to six months to complete. Next spring we’d have the park open and ready for our citizens to use.”