published Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

South Pittsburg, Tenn., flooding help grant in limbo

  • Flash flood hits downtown South Pittsburg, Tenn.
    Heavy rains late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning brought flash flooding to downtown South Pittsburg, Tenn. The flooding, which left a layer of mud throughout downtown, damaged many area homes and businesses.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. – In the aftermath of the July 10 flash flood here, city officials are applying for every type of funding they can to get help with the recovery.

So far, only one agency has offered South Pittsburg grant money, but that isn’t a done deal yet.

Two weeks ago, officials with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency announced a $300,000 grant to aid in residential cleanup, but it requires a 50 percent match from the city.

Mayor Jane Dawkins said some things that already have been done, such as volunteer hours put in or other contributions to the city, that can serve as “value credit” toward the $150,000 needed to complete the grant stipulations.

A lot is still unknown about the details of the THDA grant, she said.

“We have no information yet on how that money is to be distributed,” Dawkins said. “We know that it will be housing damage and not businesses. We don’t know what the restrictions are regarding amounts, income level or any of those types of things.”

Chuck Hammonds, director of community development for the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said his agency will manage the distribution of those funds whenever they are awarded to the city.

“Before they do that, remember that we have to come up with that $150,000 before we see a penny [of the grant money], and we don’t have $150,000,” Dawkins said.

City officials will list everything they can in order to meet the matching funds goal, she said.

Hammonds said there are special funds available through a U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant for which the city may be eligible.

“In that pot of money, there’s a category called ‘imminent threat,’” he said. “That’s for something that is catastrophic, and that just happens on a whim. There is no set deadline as to when you can apply for those funds.”

The HUD grant can be for up to $500,000, officials said, and would require a 9 percent match from the city, or about $45,000.

“For South Pittsburg, we can make a case, due to the flooding and damage, that it is in an imminent threat situation with roads, bridges, culverts and stuff like that,” Hammonds said.

The city will apply for that money through the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, officials said.

“It’s not guaranteed,” Hammonds said.

Dawkins said the THDA grant is the “first and only” government money the city has been presented or offered for recovery after the flood.

“We certainly appreciate that, but there’s been nothing other than that,” she said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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