County rushes to spend grant money by year's end

By Justin Boron

The Clayton County Greenspace Trustee Board met for the last time this year Tuesday evening to spend grant money scheduled to be returned to the state if it isn't allocated by Dec. 31.

Three years ago, as part of a Gov. Roy Barnes program, the county received $1.2 million in state grant funds for the protection of the county's watersheds and historical artifacts, said Nathan Parrott, the county's greenspace coordinator.

It spent all but about $70,000 of it, pulling about 536 acres of property into the county's greenspace program.

"We're one of the few that has spent almost all our money," said Wayne Patterson, director of transportation and development.

Since Gov. Sonny Perdue canceled the grant program, citing "economic hardships," any money left over after the Dec. 31 deadline will go back to the state, Parrott said.

"The state wants the money back bad," he said.

But the county isn't quite prepared to give it up.

The owner of a strip of property on the south side of the county along the Flint River and the county have met an impasse, said Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Crandle Bray.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board took steps toward using the extra $70,000 and pursuing condemnation of that property, which Bray said would be acquired to protect the water supply from future development.

While the board will continue to operate in the future, its ability to acquire land next year will be severely limited if Perdue does not restore the program or if the county cannot find other methods of funding, Patterson said.

Parrott said he was looking at the Arthur Blank Foundation, which supplies greenspace money, as a way to compensate for the lost grant program.