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When public funds go to Boone Lake

Johnson City Press • Dec 3, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Has the Washington County Commission’s decision last week to allocate $20,220 in one-time funds to keep the Washington County Lake Association’s clean-up crew working opened the door to similar requests from other neighborhood associations?

No wait, that couldn’t possibly be the case because the Boone Lake say’s it’s not a neighborhood association. We’ll tackle that claim in a second, but first let’s address the fact Washington County has agreed to fund work that has largely been covered by membership dues to the association.

Now, it’s taxpayers in Washington and Sullivan counties who are being asked to fund the three-person crew. Johnson City commissioners didn’t bat a eye last month when they agreed to allocate $9,780 to the Boone Lake Association.

Next up are Sullivan County commissioners, who are being asked to contribute $34,000 to the clean-up efforts.

Proponents of the funding said the money local governments have appropriated for the clean-up work comes from a Tennessee Valley Authority Impact Fee, which is paid to counties and municipalities where the federal utility is conducting significant construction projects or activity that burden the local infrastructure.

Officials with the Boone Lake Association say the group’s membership numbers have dropped from 650 members in 2013 to 220 this year as the TVA continues its work to repair the dam on Boone Lake.

Which gets us back to the point that association officials have long argued — their organization is not a typical homeowners association. Instead, they say it is a nonprofit association that seeks to keep Boone Lake free from trash and water pollution.

Fair enough, but despite how you phrase it, the group is being subsidized by public funds that could be going to other equally worthwhile projects (erosion control and wastewater runoff are just two underfunded needs that we can think of).

We commend Washington County Commissioner Greg Matherly for proposing a more palatable long-term solution for keeping Boone Lake clean. Matherly, the chairman of the commission, convinced his colleagues to authorize the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (where Matherly also happens to work) to apply for a Tennessee Department of Transportation litter grant that could be used by the association for its clean-up crew.

Grant recipients are awarded a two-year contract worth between $20,000 and $200,000, and it does not require a local match (which makes the grant even more appealing). Eligible projects include multi-jurisdictional collaborations like the Boone Lake clean-up.

The deadline to file the grant application is Jan. 31, so let’s get the paperwork started.

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