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River Valley received over $4.4 million in grants through planning district, up by $1.8 million from last year

by Thomas Saccente | November 15, 2022 at 5:30 a.m.
Daniel Rogers, mayor of Paris and chairman of the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District’s board, speaks Monday during a district luncheon at the storm shelter at Ben Geren Park in Fort Smith. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Saccente)

FORT SMITH -- The Western Arkansas Planning and Development District reported helping secure over $1.8 million more in grant money for entities in its service area this year compared to last year.

Sasha Grist, executive director of the Fort Smith-based organization, said the district helped with grants of more than $4.4 million during a luncheon in Fort Smith with elected officials at the local and state levels Monday. This money, which went to helping pay for projects in cities and counties throughout the River Valley, is a noticeable increase from the $2.6 million in 2021.

Grist said this year's total doesn't include all the money for which the district applied during that time.

"This is where we come to you guys for support letters," Grist told the state legislators present. "This is what we're doing. If we contact your office and we need a letter of support, we're putting it into this project, into this application, to try to get it funded, also letting you know what's going on in your area."

The district provides information, support and services pertaining to a variety of fields to those in Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Polk, Scott and Sebastian counties, according to the district's website. One of the fields is community and economic development, which includes grant and loan sources for community projects, structuring financing for these projects, preparing grant and loan applications and administering funded projects.

The district also does work in workforce development, transportation improvement, 911 emergency services and geographic information system/utility mapping.

Grist attributed the uptick in this year's grant impact to the district receiving significantly more money from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Tracee McKenna, the district's director of community development, said of the more than $1.5 million in grants the district received from the commission, more than $1.2 million was money the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act made available.

The Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, a department of the district dedicated to regional transportation planning, also received money from grants for which the district hadn't applied before, according to Grist.

State Rep. Jon Eubanks, R-Paris, who serves as speaker pro-tempore in the Arkansas House of Representatives, and State Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron both spoke in support of the district and the work it does for the community at Monday's luncheon. Eubanks said he believed the district is an "important component" in its six-county service area.

"If you're not aware of what they do, you need to be because they're a great resource," Eubanks said. "They can coordinate all those resources out there that you may not know about, whether it's federal, private or whatever."

Grist said the meeting was meant to let current and incoming state legislators know what the district is and what it does.

"We want to be able to have a partnership with our local legislators and have them understand how we can help them assist our communities and we can work together," Grist said.


The Western Arkansas Planning and Development District’s grants impact for 2022 can be broken down:

Economic Development Administration grants

• Fort Smith Excelsior Drive: $1.7 million

• Mena Ward Lake Trails: $275,000

Arkansas Economic Development Commission grants

• Scranton Food Pantry: $299,200

• Mulberry Water Treatment Plant: $300,000

• Scott County Senior Center vehicles: $89,565

• Polk County Senior Center vehicles: $80,455

• Mena Senior Center upgrade coolers/freezer: $190,416

• Alma Senior Center expansion: $262,500

• Barling Mercy Crest Assisted Living outdoor courtyard/trail: $299,600

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program/Courthouse Restoration grants

• Crawford County: $114,000

Scott County: $20,000

Recreational Trails Program awards

• Scranton: $50,000

• Greenwood: $200,000

• Sebastian County: $100,000

Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization

• Crawford County Federal Lands Access Program grant: $100,000

• University of Arkansas Shared Micromobility for Affordable-Accessible Housing program: $97,000 supplemental grant

• Barling Transportation Alternatives Program grant: $300,000

Source: Western Arkansas Planning and Development District


Print Headline: River Valley district notes $1.8 million increase in grant money


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