Statham receives land conservation grant, loans

STATHAM - Statham has been awarded $434,000 in conservation grants and loans to preserve Statham Spring.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that Statham would receive a $299,000 conservation grant and a $135,000 conservation loan to buy 20.45 acres of mature hardwood forest around Statham Spring. The people of Statham have depended on that spring as a primary water supply since the 1930s. It was the city's first water source and offers up to about 120,000 gallons of water a day.

"We already owned the spring, but we didn't have much protection," Mayor Robert Bridges said. "The gentlemen who own the property were kind enough to let us put it under contract a year ago while we worked on getting grants. We sent in our grant application with an appraisal and a contract. It helps to have everything in line."

The property is owned by Gene Treadwell and Michael Odum.

The money comes from the Georgia Land Conservation Act that Perdue signed into law in April 2005. The act established a trust fund and revolving loan fund of $100 million in state, federal and private capital. The monies are available to local governments and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to purchase conservation lands and easements that protect natural, cultural and historic resources.

Statham will pay back the $135,000 loan from its general fund.

The acreage was approved for preservation because it would likely have become a residential development, a statement from the governor's office said.

The land lies just off Broad Street adjacent to Statham's 13-acre recreational area that holds ball fields and walking trails. It's purchase ties in with Bridges' vision of a downtown where residents can walk or drive golf carts to their destinations.

"We're going to preserve it as greenspace, maybe with some walking trails," Bridges said.

Statham Spring is an artesian well that bubbles fresh water up from the ground. It is capped off about ten feet below the surface.

"It's a good source of water without doing a whole lot of treatment to it, and it's not a very expensive operation for the city" Bridges said. "We're in good shape with water. We also have a treatment plant on a lake that produces 1 million gallons a day, but we only need 450,000."

Bridges expects to close the land purchase by the end of December.

Bartow, DeKalb and Oconee counties were approved for $66,000, $75,000 and $467,000 grants respectively. Rockdale County was approved for a $750,000 loan.