The City of Brooklet received a preliminary award of a $2,031,000 grant from the State of Georgia on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 for waste and sewer infrastructure.

The award was announced by Governor Brian P. Kemp and members of the Water and Sewer Infrastructure Committee and state leaders along with more than $422 million in preliminary awards.  The awards will ensure communities in high-need areas have reliable and safe drinking water and wastewater systems. These federal funds are part of the $4.8 billion Georgia should receive in federal relief money that was approved by Congress last year.

Brooklet Water Tower
Credit: Grice Connect

“Because we remained focused on protecting lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic, Georgia is now in a position to make strategic, transformational investments in our state’s water and sewer infrastructure,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “I want to thank the committee members for dedicating their time and expertise to help us make these awards as well as the grants team at the Office of Planning and Budget. I am proud to know that we have worked hard to prioritize projects which address pressing public health and environmental issues, support economic development, and enhance our ability to be good stewards of our water resources for generations to come.”

The grant is a 50/50 matching grant in which the City of Brooklet will now have to determine how they will fund their portion of the over $4 million infrastructure project.

“This is wonderful news for the City of Brooklet and we have so many people to thank for helping us get to this point, of course Governor Kemp and the committee members, ” said Mayor Joe Grooms, III.  “Representative Jan Tankersley became an early champion for Brooklet as did City Engineer Wesley Parker and Brooklet Councilman Nicky Gwinnett who oversees Public Works.  The Brooklet City Council, City employees, the City of Statesboro and Bulloch County all stepped up to work and support this grant application.”

Ironically, 20 years ago Brooklet Mayor’s dad Joe Grooms, Jr. while serving as a Brooklet City Councilman led the efforts to bring waste and sewer infrastructure to the city.  In the final days of the effort it fell apart.

“I want to thank the Brooklet citizens and business owners for their patience and support of us through this process”, said Mayor Grooms.  “It is amazing to be serving the Citizens of Brooklet as their Mayor at this time and see this begin to be a realization.  It is a great day for Brooklet. This grant couldn’t come through at a more pivotal time in Brooklet’s downtown development.  Councilman Brad Anderson, who chairs administration and finance, and the City Council will work to identify the best funding sources to move forward with this grant.”

There were many people who were integral in getting this far in the grant process. None more important the Representative Jan Tankersley. Her leadership and commitment to this project and the grant was critical to its success.

“This was a great team effort. We have began to see some growth downtown, but the lack of sewer services really limits Brooklet’s growth,” said Representative Jan Tankersley. “This creates an important bridge from septic to sewage, as new development starts it will allow opportunities to tie into the system. This starts the process of moving away from individual septic tanks. This is a great legacy project that will position Brooklet for future growth.”

Growth Limited Due to Sewer Issues

The lack of a sewer system has been a struggle for businesses in the central business district of Brooklet.  The issue came to light last year when the popular El Maguey Mexican Restaurant began having major sewer issues.  The city’s contract engineer, Wesley Parker began looking for alternatives.

El Maguey Mexican Restaurant
El Maguey Mexican Restaurant, Downtown Brooklet, GA

Parker said the central business district does not have enough land to absorb the waste water in a traditional septic system.  For this reason businesses with high customer volume have to have their septic tanks pumped out two to three times per week.  They also determined that building a waste treatment facility is not feasible while building a customer base and building out the plant.

While looking for solutions they discovered this grant opportunity and went to work on the grant application.

“We immediately reached out to Representative Jan Tankersley who was excited from the start about helping her home town take a giant leap forward with this project. We then hired a grant writer and put an engineering design together,” said Wesley Parker, President of Parker Engineering.  “Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson and the commission agreed to allow a right of way to the City of Statesboro’s sewer system.  This connection would be made on the S&S Trail.  Steve Hotchkiss, Utilities Director for the City of Statesboro along with the Mayor and City Council agreed to work with the City of Brooklet to treat the wastewater for a fee.  This agreement is much like the one in place with Georgia Southern. With all of this in place the momentum was really building and allowed us to put together a very competitive grant application.”

This first phase will fund a pump station and a trunk line that will pump wastewater and sewer from the center of Brooklet to the City’s system.  It is designed to have the capacity to handle the central business district and 800 houses.

They will now need to engineer connectivity to the system and determine funding and cost to businesses and residents who connect to the system.

Parker projects it will take about two years to have the system operational.

Governor extends thanks

The Office of the Governor would like to thank all the committee members who played an impactful role in evaluating the applications:

  • Mark Williams- Commissioner, Georgia Department of Natural Resources 
  • Rick Dunn- Director, Environmental Protection Division (EPD) 
  • Kevin Clark- Executive Director, Georgia Environmental Finance Authority 
  • John Eunice- Deputy Director, EPD 
  • Dr. Anna Truszczynski- Watershed Protection Branch Chief, EPD 
  • Dr. Wei Zeng- Water Protection Program Manager, EPD 
  • Sen. Blake Tillery- Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee 
  • Rep. Terry England- Chairman, House Appropriations Committee 
  • Rep. Dominic LaRiccia – Georgia House of Representatives 
  • Rep. Robert Dickey – Chairman, House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 
  • Sen. Russ Goodman- Governor’s Floor Leader 
  • Sen. Larry Walker- Chairman, Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee 
  • Sen. Freddie Powell Sims- Vice Chair, Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee

Herschel DeWayne Grice is the founder of Grice Connect an online news and information company in Statesboro, Georgia. DeWayne has been active in the media for over three decades. He brings a unique insight...