Eleven years after an F5 tornado nearly wiped out their sister town of Mulhall, the townspeople of Orlando welcomed a new addition to their rural Oklahoma hamlet: an emergency communications system. The $15,665 project was made possible through a Rural Economic Action Plan grant from the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
More than 30 REAP projects ACOG funded this year are featured in a new e-report released today by the organization.
Rural economic action plan in central ok e report 2010
REAP was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1996 as a means of removing road blocks to economic development in rural areas. The program is one way Oklahoma communities with limited tax income can improve living and working conditions in their communities.
According to John Johnson, Executive Director, ACOG, in 2010, the organization awarded 35 REAP grants under $50,000 to rural Oklahoma communities with populations less than 7,000.
“During October and November we traveled to four different counties and touched all 35 projects personally,” Johnson said. “We wanted to see firsthand how REAP was making a difference in rural parts of Central Oklahoma. We were really amazed by what we discovered, and at some point the journey became personal.”
The four counties are Canadian, Cleveland, Logan and Oklahoma.
From construction of a long stretch of sidewalk students in Jones City utilize every day on their walks to and from school to a new radar system for the town’s only police car in Union City, viewing projects up close and personal underscored the spirit in which the REAP program was established.
“When you drive down this street in Slaughterville where we funded a project for highly reflective address markers you can really see REAP at work,” Johnson said. “Without these address markers it would be very hard for an ambulance to find the correct address of a caller, especially at night. When you consider that sometimes seconds count, you can make the case for what an enormous difference these grants can make to a community.”
Another one of Johnson’s favorite projects was a pavement restriping project in unincorporated areas of Oklahoma County. “You see these grant applications for things like pavement markings, but until you get out and see firsthand how much some of these projects are desperately needed, you can’t value REAP to the degree it deserves to be valued. One of my favorite images is of road restriping in District 3 of Oklahoma County.
“It reflects where the new striping ends and the old striping begins. It’s just a picture of pavement and the solid double yellow line, but it was dramatic for all of us.”
Last year, the Oklahoma Legislature awarded $13.3 million to 11 districts in Oklahoma. Each district received a portion of the money.
This year, ACOG received 65 eligible REAP applications. Requests for funding totaled $3.7 million for projects totaling $8 million. ACOG was allocated about $589,000 is grant funds for 2011.
The e-report, which features colorful images and brief descriptions of all the completed projects ACOG funded, is available online at the organization’s website, www.acogok.org or on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/acogok.