Grandfield received a $30,000 grant for restoration of the town's recently defunct grocery store, and Tillman County received a $25,000 grant to renovate the courthouse to provide wheelchair access.
Rep. Don Armes and Sen. Gilmer Capps said the state-funded Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grants were awarded by the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments.
Grandfield City Manager Randy Clark said the town's only full-service grocery store closed down last year after approximately 50 years of business. He said the owner, who had moved the business to a 5,400-foot facility in the 1960's, lost interest in operating the business.
Clark said city officials will use the grant to renovate the building's refrigeration system and prepare the facility for a new owner and operator. The city holds title to the building but hopes to sell the store. Clark said the success of reopening the grocery store hinges on approval of a grant application for rural development funds which would be used to finance a loan for the future owner.
Since the grocery store closed, Clark said two local convenience stores have been selling some grocery items but residents are traveling to Texas to buy the bulk of their groceries. "Being a state border town, so many dollars are going out of the state," he said. "That's not good for the state or the city." The closest grocery store is a 15-mile drive to Texas.
Clark said his concern is for the city's many elderly residents, who do not have the mobility to travel out of town to buy their groceries. "It would be a saving grace for this community to restart this store."
There are 1,140 residents in Grandfield, according to the most recent census, but Clark said residents from surrounding towns without their own grocery stores would travel to the town to shop. He estimated that the grocery store brought in as much as $5,000 annually in city sales tax revenue. The restored business would create between two to five jobs, he added.
The $25,000 REAP grant to Tillman County will be used to bring the 80-year old courthouse into compliance with federal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
County Commissioner Joe Don Dickey said the courtroom is "pretty much inaccessible" to anyone in a wheelchair. He said the narrow aisles and pews make it difficult for anyone to maneuver, let alone persons with a walking aid or wheelchair.
Dickey said at one point the courtroom's oval room was renovated, shortening it 15 to 20 percent in length. The district plans to restore the room's original design and reconfigure the seating and pathways.
The Legislature created the REAP in 1996 to help finance public infrastructure improvements in communities with a population of 7,000 or fewer, recalled Capps, D-Snyder. The Legislature has appropriated $141.68 million to the program over the past eight years, said Armes, R-Faxon.