Rural development reminds communities of financial assistance available for essential community facilities

Saturday, March 29, 2008

* More than 125 Missouri communities benefit with early warning sirens.


Morris Westfall, Missouri USDA Rural Development state director, wants to remind communities that funding assistance is available to help purchase emergency warning sirens.

"As we experience the tornado season, the safety of our rural residents is vitally important," said Westfall. "Early warning of tornadoes can allow people the opportunity to take shelter and lower the chance of serious injury or death."

USDA Rural Development, through its Community Programs loan and grant program, has assisted over 125 Missouri communities in recent years with early warning systems. Communities not yet served with this protection are welcome to visit the agency's Web site or contact an agency official for assistance.

Many partnerships have been formed to stretch the funds and minimize the costs. Westfall pointed out that many Rural Electric Cooperatives, utility companies, local non-profit organizations, and cities have helped rural communities with installation of the early warning sirens.

In some cases poles have been donated along with other materials plus labor for installation.

The amount of grant eligibility, which can pay for up to 75 percent of the cost, is determined by the applicant's median household income and population as established by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to early warning sirens, the Community Facility Program also provides financing (through loans, grants and loan guarantees) to help rural communities to finance essential community facilities, health services, and purchase of equipment which will provide essential service to rural residents. Some examples include financing an ambulance, fire truck, police car, jaws of life, rescue vehicle, 911 dispatch center, justice center, abuse center, public safety building, medical clinic and hospitals.

"The intent of the program is to assist rural communities with financial packages to enhance the quality of life for rural Missourians," Westfall further stated. "Last year, through the Community Facilities programs, more than $23 million was provided to Missouri communities for 117 projects; including six fires and rescue projects, 35 first responders and early warning systems, three daycare centers, eight health care facilities, a museum and a county justice center." Westfall added, "Rural Development's commitment to the future of rural communities would not be complete without assistance that helps communities protect their citizens. We want communities to know that Rural Development can be a funding source for this important protection as well as other essential community facilities."

Additional information on these projects or other USDA Rural Development programs is available by contacting Carol L. Platt, Area Specialist, at 625 W. Nursery, Box A, Butler, MO 64730 or calling (660) 679-6114, ext. 4 or contacting her by e-mail at carol.platt@mo.usda.gov.