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Bringing Century into the 21st century: $14M in investments are prepping town for future

PNJ.com (Pensacola) 11/30/2022 Tom McLaughlin, Pensacola News Journal

Mayor Benjamin Boutwell is of the opinion that his sleepy little town of Century is headed for an awakening.

They're running out of room for development to the south, he said, and in his opinion there aren't any communities in the northern part of Escambia County that have the charm and appeal of the one he was elected to serve.

As proof of impending growth, Boutwell noted that a service station, a truck stop and a restaurant are all among the new businesses that have recently decided to call Century home. 

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Century got its start as a logging town, and Boutwell told the Pensacola News Journal in April that an industry is redoing an old sawmill site right now to re-open it in some form within three to five years.

And with upgrades coming to U.S. Highway 29 and an industrial park ripe for development, things are looking up for the town of 1,721 nestled against the Alabama border. 

"It's exciting," Boutwell said. "We've got a lot of great things happening in the next couple of years."

New owners are expected to retrofit the old Century sawmill into a new business within the next three to five years. The venture is one of several new businesses heading to Century at a time when the town is being buoyed by roughly $14 million in state investments. © Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com New owners are expected to retrofit the old Century sawmill into a new business within the next three to five years. The venture is one of several new businesses heading to Century at a time when the town is being buoyed by roughly $14 million in state investments.

Boutwell said one of his primary goals is to prepare Century's infrastructure for what lies ahead. He's doing so with the help of state and local officials and roughly $14 million in grants and legislative appropriations they've helped the town secure.

"We're bringing Century into the 21st Century," he said.

The most recent infusion of funds was announced earlier this month when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said it would award Century an $8.86 million low-interest loan for repairs, renovations and improvements to the Century Wastewater Treatment Plant and the town's sewage infrastructure.

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Most of the incurred debt will be offset with forgiveness of more than $7.9 million of the loan through a provision offered by the state. The town itself will be required to pay less than $900,000 for the planned work. 

The funding will cover the cost of phase II of what DEP spokeswoman Ashley Livingston termed "a large-scale infrastructure upgrade project" for Century. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity had previously chipped in $1.4 million to assist with phase I. 

DEP's goal in helping communities like Century, Livingston said in an email, is "to ensure that its wastewater infrastructure is able to meet the growing demands of its service area as well as enhance water quality protections in the region."

In phase II, the town of Century will continue making critical improvements and repairs to the Century Wastewater Treatment Plant and its sanitary sewer pumping system, including replacing the filtration process at the facility to improve the quality of the treated effluent leaving the facility," Livingston said in an email.

The town will also be upgrading the lift stations that serve the Pilgrim Lodge and Industrial Boulevard areas and to the master lift station at the Century Correctional Institution.

Century was a beneficiary earlier this year of a $3.25 million grant from the Rural Infrastructure Fund, a program administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. 

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That money is being used to rehabilitate two local gathering places, the Carver Community Center and the town of Century Community Center. 

Both community center upgrades include replacing or renovating roofs, flooring, bathrooms and kitchens. Plans call for new air conditioning systems, adding cable and constructing new parking lots.

The Century Community Center is a multi-purpose facility that has been used for funerals, weddings and meetings, while the Carver Community Center is considered more a historical site.

The Carver Center served in the '40s and '50s as a school for the town's Black children. When the school burned it was replaced with the community center.

The Carver Community Center had been closed for over five years when the state provided the loan needed to bring it back to life. 

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Bringing Century into the 21st century: $14M in investments are prepping town for future

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