SIKESTON -- After nearly three decades of helping communities secure funding for important projects, Joe E. Lane is retiring as director of community planning for the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission in Dexter.
"He's been here a long time," said Steve Duke, executive director of the BRPC. "People will miss him. We're going to have to fill his shoes and we're going to have a hard time doing it."
Regional planning commissions provide technical assistance to local communities and their governments to secure grant funding to address local needs. "Local communities partner with state and federal agencies to get the revenue," Lane explained. Funding assistance is typically through Community Development Block Grant and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding which is combined with local funding.
Lane has worked on more than 90 projects for local communities over the years. While his name may not be recognized by the average resident of the Bootheel, Lane was known well by government officials.
"It takes all of us to get these project out," Duke said, "but he was the initial contact with communities."
"Joe Lane was probably one of the first people I worked with when I started with the city 23 years ago," said Doug Friend, Sikeston's city manager. "He was our 'go-to guy' with Bootheel Regional Planning for grant applications, particularly with the CDBGs. I've worked with him on grants too numerous to count -- everything from housing rehabilitation to demolition grants to street and sewer projects through the years. He was very personable, well-respected, throughout local governments in the Bootheel."
"Public facility projects were the majority of the projects we implemented," Lane recalled.
These projects included improvements to community infrastructure such as water and sewer and refurbishing streets, upgrading drainage systems, housing rehabilitation, nutrition centers and community centers and fire trucks and equipment.
"It was a maze of projects over that time period," Lane said. "Whatever the need was."
Lane finished up his work at the BRPC in 2008 by working on eight Community Development Block Grant projects, six of which were funded: demolition for Sikeston; upgrades to water lines for the Public Water Supply District No. 4 in New Madrid County; street improvements for Blodgett; Phase 1 and Phase 2 of a storm sewer project in East Prairie; and a water line project for Marston.
Projects over the years have been as small as $50,000 and as large as $2 million, he said.
Lane got his start by working for the non-profit Bootheel Mayors Association for about a year and a half.
The Bootheel Mayors Association assisted minority mayors in the Bootheel in communities such as Hayti Heights, Penermon, Howardville, North Lilbourn, Homestown, Haywood City and Wilson City.
"After working for the Bootheel Mayors Association I learned of an opening at the Bootheel Regional Planning Commission," Lane said.
As the BRPC provided similar services as the Bootheel Mayors Association and Lane was interested in continuing to work with local governments, in March 1980, "I applied and was hired," he said. "They are a great group to work with."
Asked what it takes to be successful in his field, Lane said the most important thing is to "get to know the communities in the region and what their needs are."
The other key component is knowing the funding sources that are available to fund such projects.
"Without funding from CDBG and Rural Development, many of these projects would not have been developed," Lane said.
On the Net: http://www.bootrpc.com/