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Oakwood literacy center project shelved
City halts grant pursuit citing building costs
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Listen as Linda Barrow, vice president for academic affairs at Lanier Technical College, talks about the decision to delay applying for a grant that would have been used for a new literacy center in Oakwood.

A budgetary issue is forcing Oakwood to wait a year to pursue a state grant for a new center teaching literacy, GED instruction and English for non-native speakers.

The city was pursuing a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, the maximum amount allowed, on behalf of Lanier Technical College’s adult education program.

But as it turns out, site preparation costs alone would be $500,000.

“In the budget (for a project), you have to show that all your costs are covered in order to be competitive,” City Planner Larry Sparks said Monday morning.

Grant applications are due in April. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs oversees the grants, which are designed to benefit mainly low- to moderate-income residents.

Plans had called for the literacy center to be built off Thurmon Tanner Parkway, a four-lane road under construction between Plainview and Mundy Mill roads. The new road is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Oakwood has set aside about 2 acres and $10,000 toward the project.

The Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy and Lanier Technical College Foundation also had pledged $10,000 toward the project if the grant was awarded.

Brenda Thomas, Lanier Tech’s associate vice president for adult education, has said the project “will provide expanded space to enroll more students and make classes more accessible” to South Hall residents.

Last year alone, the Hall County Adult Learning Center at 4 1/2 B Stallworth St. in Gainesville provided services for some 2,000 students.

At this point, “we’re going to sit back and regroup” on the application, said Linda Barrow, vice president for academic affairs at Lanier Technical College.

“The need is still there and growing every day. We are pursuing a couple of other options, as temporary measures, to expand to other locations in Hall County until we get this grant funded,” Barrow said.

“We didn’t want to submit a grant that didn’t have a chance to succeed because we didn’t have the funding to do the site work plus build the building.”

Barrow said she believes now that college officials and others have extra time to work on the grant, “we can work out all the details.”

A fundraiser is one way to fill the financial gap.

“We know in this economy that this is difficult,” Barrow said. “The good news is so many people in our community recognize how critical education is and so it’s a little easier to raise money for adult education.”

Lanier Tech is still interested in the Thurmon Tanner location, she added.