Opinion

Big boost for Chester

The $1 million in federal grant money received by Chester County should provide a significant economic boost to the community. And half the money came out of the clear blue.

The money was awarded to the county in the form of a federal block grant, which is funneled through the S.C. Department of Commerce. The grant money will be used to take care of two crucial projects: cleanup of the abandoned Springsteen Mill site and construction of new water lines for the Darby Road area, a neighborhood on the northeastern part of the county. Each project will get half of the grant money.

The mill cleanup is a dream come true for Chester, particularly County Councilman Alex Oliphant, who has lobbied for years to clean up the site. The old mill is an eyesore at the city's primary entryway. Long closed and gutted, the hull of the mill now is surrounded by heaps of crumbled bricks, wooden planks and other debris.

Both the city and county have committed money to the project, but it was contingent on whether the county landed the grant to help cover cleanup costs. Now that the grant has been awarded, the project can begin.

New water lines for the Darby Road neighborhood will be a godsend. The water used by residents now is rust-colored, smelly and foul tasting. It also stains laundry washed in it. The water isn't unhealthy, but the minerals and chemicals it contains make it unpleasant to use.

Several months ago, county leaders were told they wouldn't get a grant to extend the new water lines to the area's 73 residents. But that was before the Commerce Department found it had a little cash on hand for the project.

To hear Grazier Rhea tell it, the $500,000 grant was something of a miracle.

"We were absolutely shocked," said Rhea, who is community development director for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. Rhea, who had worked with the county to get the money, said that it essentially is cash left over after other projects were funded.

Both grants are great news for Chester County residents. The mill cleanup especially should benefit the community.

Oliphant hopes the Springsteen site will be cleared by spring, mid-year at the latest. But after that, the county will have to confront environmental issues on the property, a common problem with old mill sites that soaked up chemicals and other pollutants for decades.

But grant money might be available for an environmental cleanup, too. And the initial cleanup will be a huge step toward beautifying the gateway.

Congratulations to local officials and the Catawba Regional Council of Governments for tenaciously pursuing this grant money and for moving these projects forward.

IN SUMMARY

Federal grants totaling $1 million will provide economic boost to city and county.

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