Unicoi board eases purchasing policy; trail projects move forward

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 21, 2019 at 10:05 PM

UNICOI — The Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen tended to a couple of orders of financial housekeeping Monday, approving ordinances to simplify purchasing practices and to transfer available budget funding to town projects.

In the first of two votes of approval, the board unanimously passed an ordinance to allow purchases of up $4,000 to be made without competitive bidding. The vote repealed an existing ordinance that set the limit at $50.

A first-reading vote on an ordinance allowing the transfer of funding saved through reductions in budget expenditures to projects, including improvements to the Pinnacle Fire Tower Trailhead, also passed unanimously.

In a discussion of the budget transfers, Vice Mayor Doug Hopson noted that no new money was being spent on the projects, only money saved through reductions in other budget expenditures.

In his monthly report to the board, Town Recorder Michael Borders said construction on a grant-funded walking and biking trail to connect the Pinnacle Fire Tower trail to the Maple Grove shopping area, is expected to begin in late May.

Borders said work on a new gravel parking lot near the popular trailhead is expected to begin as soon “as the budget passes,” and plans for a walking and biking trail connecting the town of Erwin and Unicoi are also moving forward.

Borders told the board that the two towns have worked out an agreement to provide match funding for a Tennessee Department of Transportation Planning Grant for the connector trail without financial support from Unicoi County.

While TDOT awarded the grant jointly to the three local government entities, the county commission last month rejected a request for a $2,999 grant match contribution for the trail’s planning phase.

TDOT representatives said last month the route of the trail will be determined with input from community members and brought back to the local government boards for approval.