Manila receives Delta funds

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

The Manila School District was recommended by Gov. Mike Huckabee to receive $249,000 for a job training program from the $4.5 million allocated through the Delta Regional Authority funds.

Manila Superintendent Charolette Wagner said she heard about the available grant money two weeks before the July 15 deadline.

Wagner said the funding was divided into four categories including transportation, public or basic infrastructure, economic and business development and education.

Wagner had little time to waste and once she had the approval of the Manila School Board, she went forward gathering information, consulting with Kelton Schools concerning arrangements for the partnership program, and working long hours to get the application in on time.

Wagner was extremely excited when the announcement came last Tuesday that Manila was one of the 16 projects recommended to be funded. The governor received 157 grant applications requesting $56.5 million.

The applications will be reviewed by the authority staff to decide if all projects align with the guidelines established in the federal legislation that created the burgeoning federal agency.

After the staff analyzes the projects, federal co-chairman Pete Johnson will present the proposals from all eight member states to the authority board for final approval and distribution of funds. The board is made up of one delegate from each state.

Congress created the agency to help improve life in the nation's most impoverished area. The region includes parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Wagner explained that her proposal addressed the Governor's initiative for educational and training projects.

Manila Public Schools and Kelton Schools (a private, career education school) will partner to provide high quality, specific training in computer skills including Microsoft word, excel, access, powerpoint, and other office skills such as personal and communication skills, and medical processor skills such as medical terminology, transcription, billing and coding. The training will be in 10-week blocks.

The project will help junior and senior high school students and adults.

If the money is approved, Manila High School will be the location for the school that will include evening classes for adults as well as junior and senior high schools students. Thirty computer, stations, instructors, textbooks, and other material needed will be provided through the funds and set up at MHS. High school students will benefit additionally through the use of the computers and software during the regular school hours.

A large part of the grant will be used to offer scholarships for the training. The evening classes will also be available for non-scholarship students that want to pay for the classes.. The training offers technical skills that students can use in any office and medical office skills.

"There is a real need for these skills in our area," Wagner said.

"We are very hopeful," Wagner said. "The long hours will be well worth it if Manila gets the grant and can help train people to be better prepared for jobs that will pay good salaries."

Final approval will not be definite until late August.

Other projects in Arkansas recommended are:

*Cross County Chamber of Commerce, Wynne $210,000 for Genesis Connection, a project planned to link a new technology center to three high schools and the University of Arkansas Engineering Research Center.

*Mid-South Community College, West Memphis -- $311,687 to develop training programs in transportation, distribution and logistics.

*City of West Memphis -- $250,000 for bus routes targeted at the Welfare-to-Work program.

*Arkansas Rehabilitation Services division of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Education -- $197,610 to provide transportation for people with disabilities, the elderly and welfare to work participants in the delta.

*City of McGehee -- $212,400 to help Temple Products of Hermitage retrofit a building owned by the city to increase production and create 50 jobs.

*City of El Dorado -- $115,000 to extend city sewer services to an industrial park, creating an estimated 85 jobs at seven companies.

*Lee County -- $262,385 to expand and upgrade the Marianna-Lee County Airport.

*City of England -- $262,000 to expand the England Drier and Elevator Co. soybean-processing facility.

*City of Knobel in Clay County -- $65,300 to refurbish a water tank serving 360 people.

*East Prairie County Water Association -- $120,981 to fight high iron and manganese content in a water system serving 285 people.

*Southeast Arkansas College, Pine Bluff -- $218,710 for training in manufacturing.

*City of Gould -- $441,360 to refurbish a wastewater system that serves 1,200 people.

*Calhoun County -- $521,327 to construct a water system to serve 575 homes.

*City of Augusta -- $550,000 to improve an overloaded city wastewater system and extend service to 90 more residents.

*City of Success, Clay County -- $72,700 to refurbish a water storage tank.

About $200,000 of the state's $4.5 million in Delta Regional Authority funds remains unused. Another $200,000 has been dedicated to local planning and development districts for their work in coordinating the grant process.

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