ERWIN — Following the evaluation of a pre-application, Unicoi County has made the final cut to receive Appalachian Regional Commission grant funding to help pay for the rehabilitation of a railroad spur running through Erwin’s Riverview Industrial Park.
Unicoi County Commissioners voted 7-2 in favor of continuing with the grant process and officially applying for ARC funding for the project during their regular meeting Monday.
Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch previously said repairs on the track, which is utilized by several businesses in the industrial park including Poly Pipe and Nuclear Fuel Services, have cost approximately $40,000 over the past four to five years.
While a band-aid approach of repairing the track when needed has sufficed over that time, Lynch previously said a more long-term fix is now needed. The estimated cost of the rehabilitation of the railroad spur is $161,000.
A preliminary engineering report required for the grant has already been completed, Lynch told commissioners Monday. The ARC grant also requires a 50 percent local match, and the amount of grant funding being sought for the rehabilitation project is $80,500.
“This is good news for the track,” Lynch said Monday. “This will save the county quite a bit of money.”
Commissioners voting against the resolution on ARC funding were James Howell and Gene Wilson. Wilson said he felt the railroad company utilizing the rail spur should take care of the costs to repair it.
“I don’t think taxpayers ought to be liable for that,” Wilson said.
Lynch it was the county that originally built the spur line utilizing grant funding with the purpose of serving the industrial park. Because of this, the rail spur is owned by the county.
Now that the county has approved a resolution in support of seeking grant funding, Lynch said the matter will be brought before the county’s Economic Development Board to see if the towns of Erwin and Unicoi can assist in funding the amount for the required local match.
In other business, the commission:
— Unanimously approved the redistricting plan previously recommended for approval by the Redistricting Committee.
— Approved increasing the county’s jail fee from $10 per inmate per day to $35 per inmate per day pending research by the county attorney. This fee is charged to inmates housed in the Unicoi County Jail and is effective after sentencing.
— Approved the appointment of Commissioner Loren Thomas to the county’s planning commission.
— Approved the appointment of Angie Georgeff to the Records Committee.