State legislation has opened up Johnston County open-space funding and the Greater Cleveland Athetic Association wants to stake a claim on some of the action.
Jonathan Breeden, whose son plays T-ball at GCAA, asked Johnston County commissioners to create an application process at the April 7 commissioners meeting, and they voted to do just that.
From July 1 to Aug. 15, local groups can apply for money out of a roughly $1 million pot building for 12 years. The money, designated for the region where the fee was collected, came from developers who opted to pay a fee rather than incorporate a set amount of open space in their development.
The state legislature loosened restrictions on open-space funds last session, and until recently Johnston’s commissioners had effectively sat on the money for years. But when the county granted $100,000 from the fund to build a Miracle League baseball field in Smithfield for special needs children, other communities have read that as a sign that the funds might be accessible now.
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“We’re so over the moon that they would actually pass a policy that would let us actually apply for the (money),” Breeden said, adding that nothing was guaranteed for GCAA. “We’ll still have to have our ducks in a row.”
The organization largely leases fields at the old Cleveland School and uses whatever facilities it can. It has been looking into stringing fields with lights or buying new land because the organization has had major growth in recent years to serving about 1,500 children.
Breeden said that aside from buying land, which the comissioners indicated a preference toward and which he said might be a more cost-effective way to expand capacity than lights, the league had other wants. A new or repaired roof for the Old Cleveland School basketball gym is anther thing Breeden considers a need. But he said the focus has been about opening the funds in recent months and that the organzation would now look to prioritize its goals.
Applicants will have to match 5 percent of the money. Priority will be given to established organizations, such as municipalities, public schools and rural athletic associations, according to the policy passed by the Commissioners. Impacts on neighboring properties will be considered when evaluating applications.
One-third of the money will not be available to applicants: that $343,000 will be saved in a future county-wide project fund.
The rest of the money can only be given out to groups in the area from the general vicinity where the money was collected. About $241,000 is up for grabs in the Cleveland community, and about $209,000 for the West Johnston area. The next highest amounts ares $94,000 in Corinth Holders and $65,000 in South Johnston. The following areas each have about $20,000 available: Clayton, North Johnston, Princeton and Smithfield-Selma.