UNICOI — U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, and USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode were at the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens on Thursday morning for the announcement of more than $3 million in USDA Rural Development funding that will be provided to 14 organizations and governmental bodies in east Tennessee for various projects.
Goode said USDA Rural Development invested more than $1.3 billion across the state last year.
“It’s really for communities to bring jobs and to help businesses and to bring water and sewer to areas for industrial development and to provide homes,” Goode said of the funding.
Projects to be added by the funding include waterline extensions and replacements, the construction of a heliport and building construction. Roe said that soon after his election to the Johnson City Commission when he was a political newcomer, he quickly realized the significance of infrastructure projects, such as those receiving USDA funding.
“I began to see the importance of what infrastructure meant for economic development and began to really hone in on that,” Roe said.
Three bodies in Unicoi County received nearly $1.4 million in total. The town of Unicoi received $30,000 in Rural Development funding for the construction of its planned community kitchen. The town had already secured $270,000 for the project through other funding sources.
Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch said town officials hope to have ground broken on the kitchen by spring and have it open within the next couple of years.
“To us, this is a big step,” Lynch said of the funding. “We’re ready now. We feel like we’ve got a 90 percent chance now that all the funding is going to come through and we’ll be able to proceed with our plans.”
The Unicoi Water Utility District received $1,350,000 in Rural Development funds for waterline replacement and extensions. Utility Manager Lee Bennett said the funding will not only allow the water district to replace waterlines and loop its water system around the town of Unicoi, but it will also allow for the construction of a 250,000-gallon water tank.
“I’ve been there 23 years, and this is the biggest thing that’s happened since I’ve been there as far as improvement of the system,” Bennett said.
The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce received $17,500 to go toward the Erwin downtown revitalization project.
Other local organizations to receive funding included Washington County’s Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Inc., which received $24,000 for the construction of a five-room building; the Hampton-Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department out of Carter County, which received $166,000 for the purchase of a new emergency vehicle; and the First Tennessee Private Industry Council, which received $17,500 to go toward the Elizabethton business enhancement sign project.
“We certainly work very well with UDSA and Rural Development,” Roe said. “They have been phenomenal partners in trying to wrangle out loans and grants.”
Others receiving funding were the town of Mosheim, Rural Resources Inc. and Krebs Ventures LLC, all located in Greene County; the Alanthus Hill Community Center and Volunteer Fire Department in Hancock County; the Price Public Community Center in Hawkins County; and the Cold Spring Utility District, Brownlow Utility District and Carderview Utility District, all in Johnson County.