City of Watauga puts grants to good use

John Thompson • Mar 22, 2016 at 9:13 PM

WATAUGA — Over the past two decades the city of Watauga has been able to rehabilitate the houses of many older residents, relocate a waterline and purchase fire equipment without raising taxes. It has been able to accomplish these programs thanks to state and federal grant money.

Watauga’s population according to the 2010 Census was 458. Despite its tiny size, City Manager Hattie Skeans said the city received over $1.3 million in six separate projects. Among the projects was the rehabilitation of 22 homes and the building of four new homes.

The city was incorporated in 1960. Skeans came to work for Watauga in 1982 and became city manager in 1996. The next year, the new city manager made her first application for a grant. It was to make repairs to a sewer line. 

Skeans looked for help and soon found it at the First Tennessee Development District. With that agency’s help, Watauga qualified for a Tennessee Housing Development Agency grant. The town was awarded a $262,500 grant, which meant a lot because many elderly residents needed help renovating or winterizing their homes

The next year, 2000, Skeans went back to the First Tennessee Development District for help because old waterlines needed rehabilitation. This time the city received a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant to repair the lines.

In 2001, Watauga went back to FTDD for help in applying for another Community Development Block Grant for its volunter fire department. Once more, the town’s request was approved, this time for $99,600.

In 2008, Watauga received a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant. This one was for more housing rehabilitation. 

Watauga’s biggest year for grants was yet to come. In 2010, the town received two grants. One was another $300,000 Community Development Block Grant, once again to rehabilitate housing. The city received a $100,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to install new windows, lighting and heating and air conditioning at City Hall.

Skeans said the grant for City Hall, which is a converted school, has been a big help. She said in the past, the city had to pay $2,000 every two weeks for fuel. Not only has the costs plummeted, but the gym is now comfortable winter or summer.

The city has not received a grant since 2010, but Skeans said it hasn’t needed anymore grants. The housing for the citizens is now in good shape, City Hall has an energy efficient heating-and-cooling system, and the city’s taxpayers have not been burdened by these projects.

“I have to thank Susan Reid, executive director of the First Tennessee Development District and all of her staff. They have gone above and way beyond the call of duty in helping us,” Skeans said.

She said if there are any small towns in the eight county region served by FTDD that are not using its services “they need to start because there are many areas where they can help.”

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