published Monday, December 17th, 2012

Bradley County's Healthy Community funding vote today

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County commissioners are set to vote today on funding for the county's Healthy Community Initiative general fund's 2012 grant cycle.

Commissioners have wrestled with whether to boost the $70,000 general fund balance with another $35,000 previously allocated to the Public Water Fund, which helps county residents pay for clean water access.

The measure originally was placed on today's consent agenda after a 3-2 Finance Committee vote recommending its approval, but it since has been moved to the regular agenda for discussion because of possible miscalculations.

"It is my understanding that after the Finance Committee had acted, it was discovered that there was not as much money in that water fund," said Commissioner Mel Griffith, who asked that the issue be put on today's regular agenda.

The $35,000 transfer was expected to leave $20,000 in the Public Water Fund, but the actual balance may be $5,000 less, officials said.

The money was allocated to the Public Water Fund through the Healthy Community program three years ago. Supporters of moving it say that would get the money working in the community.

"It's not the intent that these funds should go unused," Commissioner Adam Lowe has said.

Other commissioners are cautious of changing the clean water grant fund balance.

"The Public Water Fund is a powerful tool," Commissioner Ed Elkins said. "The grants leverage projects four times their actual amount."

Approved clean water access projects receive 25 percent funding from the Public Water Fund and 50 percent funding from Cleveland Utilities, so beneficiaries have to pay only 25 percent of the cost.

Elkins said he would like to limit the dip into the Public Water Fund to $15,000 or maybe less.

Commissioners have debated the funding issue since mid-November. The deadline for Healthy Communities grant applications passed Dec. 14, before commissioners decided how much money would be available. Lowe has suggested that the process has been somewhat "stifled."

The Healthy Communities Initiative program is funded by interest generated from the proceeds of the county's sale of Bradley Memorial Hospital in 2005. Created in 2008, its purpose is to fund improvements to "the health care, wellness and quality of life of the citizens of Bradley County," according to the county government's website.

Grant funds have assisted a variety of needs, including improvements to parks and schools and providing equipment for health care and emergency services.

Applications for the grants are expected to be reviewed in January.

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