published Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Grants help cities upgrade utilities

Next year the state will divvy out more than $2.6 million for eight infrastructure projects in Southeast Tennessee communities, officials said.

The money will be spend on everything from sewer line expansions to fire protection in the region's most rural areas, and, in most cases, officials said grants from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will be added to local funds for infrastructure expansion projects.

By the numbers

* $100,000 to Ducktown

* $200,000 to New Hope

* $225,000 to Copperhill

* $340,000 to Soddy-Daisy

* $350,000 to Spring City

* $400,000 to Meigs County

* $500,000 to Benton

* $500,000 to Crossville

Source: Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

State officials get hundreds of grant applicants each year, and this year a total of $23 million in community development block grants were awarded. Twenty-seven were awards to projects in East Tennessee.

"Community development is essential to growing the economy and creating a business-friendly environment," said Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty.

In Meigs County, the Decatur sewer system has been near capacity for years because of rainwater leaking into the pipes and flooding the sewer plant, said Laura Smith, the Decatur city recorder.

The $400,000, dispersed by the state with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to purchase underground cameras to search out the areas where rainwater is leaking into the sewer pipes, she said.

The county also will pitch in $44,500 toward the project.

"When we are attempting to recruit industries and they look at the capacity and they have large sewer needs, it makes a company nervous," Smith said. "It has been a need for several years, and we are glad the state chose to fund this. It will make a difference in our community."

Burt Johnson, finance director for the city of Soddy-Daisy, said the $340,000 grant it is receiving with go to expanded sewer lines to nearly 30 homes on Duram Street in the north part of Soddy-Daisy.

Sixty-five percent of the families that would be served are low incomes and currently using septic systems in their backyards. Some people will be able to hook onto the new lines for free.

"It is much-needed," Johnson said. "On a sewer line if something goes wrong they aren't responsible."

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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