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Should county tax dollars go to Boone Lake cleanup?

Johnson City Press • Oct 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The Boone Lake Association is asking local government for help in funding its cleanup efforts. Officials with the group say since Tennessee Valley Authority began its major repair of the Boone Dam, the neighborhood association has seen its membership decrease.

That has resulted in a decline in fees collected to pay for three full-time employees who work year-round to remove environmental and safety hazards (such as plastic foam, tires, trash slicks and even dead cows) from the lake.

Tom McKee, who serves as vice president of the Boone Lake Association, told Washington County commissioners last month the group had its highest membership in 2013 with 630 members. That number, however, fell to 321 members in 2016.

McKee estimates membership could drop to 200 this year.

“The Boone Lake Association recognizes that a dam collapse would constitute a virtual catastrophe, and remains supportive of TVA’s efforts notwithstanding the fact that the drawdown had greatly inconvenienced many of our members, has reduced property values along the lake, and has threatened the existence of a number of lakeside business operations,” according to McKee’s remarks to the Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee on Aug. 3.

McKee said the TVA had previously contracted the association’s clean-up team for around $10,000 to remove tires from the bottom of the lake, but the contract alone only covers a portion of the crew’s finances. The lake association is now asking Sullivan and Washington counties to help help fund its clean-up program.

“It is our understanding that we are the only organization of this type that actually employs a clean-up crew to work on a TVA lake on a regular basis, and the association feels that this fact reflects the unique nature of this lake that seems to promote the influx of trash and debris,” McKee wrote to Washington County officials.

As Press staff writer Zach Vance reported in September, McKee and association board member Ron Siegfried appeared at the last meeting of the Washington County to request $30,000 of the $863,000 TVA impact fee the county received earlier this year to keep the clean-up crew funded past Dec. 31.

The state provides impact payments to counties and municipalities where TVA has a significant construction project or activity that can place a burdens on the local infrastructure.

Vance reported commissioners did not act on the request, and while $281,297 of the $863,000 impact payment was allocated to Johnson City, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the remaining amount of county’s TVA impact funding was used to balance the new budget.

“The concerns that were expressed had to do with the precedent that the county would be setting in funding a homeowners’ association because there are dozens and dozens of homeowners’ associations in the Washington County,” Eldridge said.

Tell us what you think. Should tax dollars from Washington and Sullivan counties be used to help fund the Boone Lake Association’s clean-up crew?

Send your comments to mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com.

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