published Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Healthy Community funds for Bradley County finalized

CLEVELAND — Bradley County commissioners voted 12-0 Monday to establish a Health, Wellness and Quality of Life Fund.

The $92,000 award was funded with $72,000 from the Healthy Community Initiative general fund and a $20,000 transfer of unused funds previously allocated to the Public Water Fund, which provides grants for clean water access. This leaves $29,500 in the Public Water Fund.

The health and wellness fund will provide grants for a variety of community-oriented initiatives, from funding park improvements to purchasing equipment for health care and emergency services.

A narrow Finance Committee vote had previously recommended transferring $35,000 of the Public Water Fund, but commissioners unanimously embraced the $20,000 compromise recommended by Commissioner Mel Griffith. Commissioners Ed Elkins and Griffith have stated concerns about leaving too little money for clean water access grants.

Elkins previously said the power of the Public Water Fund should not be underestimated, citing its ability to leverage four times the amount of its awards. When a project is approved to supply new water service to county residents, Cleveland Utilities provides funding for 50 percent of the project, while the Public Water Fund and the beneficiary residents each pay 25 percent of the total cost.

"We come in at the end of a long process [to install water service]," Griffith said Monday. "If we don't have enough funds, we kill the project."

Griffith said he considers the Public Water Fund "a higher priority" than the Health, Wellness and Quality of Life Fund.

"You can't get along without clean water," said Griffith.

Commissioner Adam Lowe praised Griffith's HCI funding proposal, saying that the $92,000 being made available will make "a significant social impact."

Bradley County has received 10 letters of intent amounting to $270,000 in grant requests from governmental bodies and nonprofit organizations, Lowe said.

The HCI Committee plans to review those applications in January, according to officials.

The HCI program receives funding by interest generated from the proceeds of the county's sale of Bradley Memorial Hospital in 2005. Created in 2008, the purposed of HCI is to fund improvements to "the health care, wellness and quality of life of the citizens of Bradley County," according to the county's government website.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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