COPPERHILL, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam made three quick stops in East Tennessee on Friday, announcing significant grants for infrastructure projects and higher education along the way.
“Washington doesn’t get a whole lot of things right, but this is a program that they did get right,” Haslam said to an audience gathered at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where he announced three $500,000 Community Development Block Grants for water and sewer needs in Polk and McMinn counties.
The federally funded grants are allocated under a procedure authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly and based on priorities set at local levels.
Program administration is handled by the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“The grants that we make on this really address quality-of-life issues,” Haslam said. “Water and sewer availability is really key to growth, and a lot of communities are limited in what they can do in funding their basic infrastructure and that limits their growth.”
The Ocoee Utility District will provide a $333,315 match to Polk County’s $500,000 grant, which funds an $833,315 project to provide clean water for 60 households — or about 166 residents — in the Oldfort and Conasauga communities, said Chuck Hammonds, director of community development for the Southeast Tennessee Development District.
Tim Lawson, director of the Ocoee Utility District, said work on the project is expected to begin early next year.
The McMinn County communities of Athens and Etowah each will receive $500,000 to assist with sewer system improvements.
Athens will match its grant with $341,700 in local funding.
Etowah will use its grant dollars to pay for rehabilitative work on its waste water system, focusing on the removal of frequent blockages that cause sewer overflows into basements and yards of residences and businesses. The city’s utility will also do repair work to reduce storm water infiltration into its sewer network.
Etowah will match its grant with $75,000 in local funding.
In Chattanooga, Haslam said $1,290,786 in workforce development grants for Chattanooga State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Chattanooga will support his “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials, according to a news release.
Chattanooga State received a total grant award of $960,550 to fund needed equipment for a new nuclear power plant simulation lab and an expansion of its advanced mechatronics program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nuclear technicians is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2010-2020.
TCAT-Chattanooga received a total grant award of $330,236 to fund necessary equipment to become a certified Snap-on institution in an additional five areas – diagnostic certification, diesel certification, undercar certification, torque certification and tool control systems certification. Graduates of the program at TCAT-Chattanooga can become employees of a variety of area companies such as Volkswagen, Peterbilt, McKee Foods, Nichols Marine and more.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.