Uniontown receives $343K grant

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2006

Funds to go toward city’s revitalization project

By Victor Inge

The Selma times-journal

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UNIONTOWN – The landscape along U.S. Hwy. 80, which runs through the heart of town, will soon change from blight to the appearance of promise.

Mayor Phillip White announced a revitalization project Thursday, and said the city has received a grant of $343,000 from the Alabama Department of Transportation to make the transformation complete. In addition to new sidewalks, shrubbery, decorative lighting and street signs, the City is planning a new visitor’s center.

“We’re using federal funds that Representative (Artur) Davis helped us with to build the visitor’s center. We’ll have to add some funds to go along with it, but the $75,000 grant will carry us a long ways toward the finished site,” White said.

Plans for the visitor’s center call for a lake and a community center, but right now an old barn with a rusted tin roof stands marking its place.

“We’re going into construction after the first of the year,” White said. “We want to maintain that small town atmosphere.”

Uniontown has that, with a population of 3,500 residents within its city limits, everybody knows each other, White said. There are only 5,000 people living within the police jurisdiction. Gone are the days of two police cars, the city recently purchased three new cruisers, and two refurbished cars to improve its fleet.

It also has the problems of small towns – lack of jobs. Perry County consistently ranks in the top three in the state in unemployment. The very construction projects involved in the revitalization of downtown will stimulate the economy, but what he says will grow their economy will have to be new businesses.

“There are 10,000 vehicles that pass through here every day,” White said. “Within a 10-mile radius there are 10,000 people.”

Tyrone Brown, the District 2 city councilman, said they’re trying to make a change from the terrible reputation of criminal activity and the blight seen from the highway.

“This town is going to be transformed,” Brown said. “We’re not only cleaning up the parts of town you see when you drive through, but we’re tearing down a lot of old buildings. We’re really changing the image of the town, with hopes of attracting new businesses.”

City officials hope their efforts will pay off. Another way they’re trying to instill community pride is through promoting home ownership. White said they have taken more than 300 applications for funds that allow homeowners to make repairs through the USDA.

“That’s going well,” he said. “We have volunteer counselors who meet once a month to work through whatever problems residents have had prohibiting them from owning a home. Some of the people who own homes have already received money and have begun fixing up their homes.”