Local residents now have an interesting option for helping preserve the historical landmarks that make Bryan County unique.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division (HPD) has announced the availability of a specialty tag for historic preservation.
The license tag fee costs $25, with $22 going straight to HPD’s Georgia Heritage Grant Program. First started in 2006, the program provides funding to help preserve significant historic buildings and sites owned by local government and nonprofit groups.
Past receivers of the grant in coastal Georgia include the LeConte-Woodsmaston Site in Liberty County, the Ossabaw Island Clubhouse in Chatham County, and the St. Simons Lighthouse Keeper’s Building in Glynn County, among others. The grants ranged from $5,000 to $20,000.
"There’s never been an application from Bryan County," HPD Grant Coordinator Carole Moore said, noting they usually give out one grant a year for preserving a courthouse.
"Whether or not it’s on the National Register for Historic Landmarks doesn’t matter; a grant can still be applied for," she said.
But the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says they are in dire need of increased grant funding.
"In 1997, a special legislative study committee identified a $5 million per year goal for the Georgia Heritage program. The grant program has not yet reached that goal; it reached its highest point in 2002 at $500,000 and funding amounts have been cut gradually since September 11, 2001," the DNR release said earlier this month.
Moore explained the $5 million figure was estimated as an adequate amount to fund applications to meet preservation goals throughout the state. Starting back in 2005, the legislature dropped funding down to $129,000, and the number hasn’t increased since.
"It’s really just a pittance. Preservation doesn’t seem to be high on (the legislature) radar of importance," she said, noting the HPD received 31 applications this past year, and can only fund about a third of the requests.
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Division requires 1,000 orders to be placed on a specialty tag before they begin producing it.
As of Sept. 7, 869 orders have already been made, said Helen Talley-McRae, public information coordinator for the DNR.
"I’m really hoping this helps push us over the edge. We had to personally take all the promotional stuff to each tag office; and there’s a lot of competition, so you really have to hope they’ll have room (for the tag) and like your design," Talley-McRae said.
Georgia currently has a variety of specialty plates, including college, government, and military. The special interest tags make up more than 60 options offered to Georgia residents – indeed some definite competition.
Moore said that for ever tag sold by Dec. 31 this year, the money will go into next year’s grant cycle. Once the required number of plates has been sold, that will give the HPD at least $22,000 extra funds to work with.
"That would fund maybe one big project, or two smaller projects," Moore said. "So this is a start. We’re also hoping that once the tag gets on the road, more people will become aware."
You can reserve your historic preservation plate by stopping by the Bryan County tag office to pay the $25 specialty tag fee, by getting an order form online at www.gashpo.org, or by calling 404-656-2840.
For additional information, or to apply for a grant, contact the Carole Moore at 404-463-8434 or email@example.com.