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Kingston betting lights on drawing retail

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By Terri Likens, Editor

Kingston city officials are aglow about the city’s latest accomplishment — a half dozen towering light clusters at the Gallaher Road exit of Interstate 40.

Those, along with the addition of more traditional street lights along the exit, are intended to signal to businesses and, eventually, shoppers, that this is the intended site of Kingston’s future business district.

“It looks good, folks, and I’m excited about it opening up opportunities for the city,” Vice Mayor Teresa Nichols said at a recent city council meeting.

City Manager Jim Pinkerton also sounded hopeful.

“It’s really something to see the lights out there,” he said. “It looks quite good.”

The lights are like those at the Midtown exit of I-40, where a shopping center anchored by Lowe’s and Kroger lies. The businesses there have pumped much-needed retail tax income into Harriman city coffers.

Kingston has felt the need to expand its own retail base for years.

“This is our only chance to do anything — the Gallaher Road corridor,” said Councilman Tim Neal, a longtime proponent of the project.

He said he and Councilman Don White, in previous terms on the council 10 to 12 years ago, focused on putting in place the infrastructure needed to draw commercial business to the city.

“We saw what lights at the main (Kingston) interchange did,” Neal said.

The city annexed a stretch on Gallaher and, in a two-phase project, has extended sewerlines about a mile down.

It is preparing to take bids for about another mile of sewer extensions, which will run about to Lawnville Road — the city limits, Pinkerton said.

Kingston also recently opened bids for its Rockwood waterline interconnect project.

The low bid was $1,581,365 by Merkel Brothers Consruction of Greeneville. The bid was 25 percent below engineering estimates.

“Of course, that’s just a sign of the economy,” Pinkerton said. “They are a good construction company.”

The waterline interconnect would provide ample water if Kingston’s needs were to rise dramatically.

Pinkerton said the city has had bites from real estate agents representing restaurant chains and hotels interested in the corridor, but then the economy tanked.

Glimmers that the recession is actually receding may change that.

“I think everything is ready to go,” Pinkerton said.

Considering the intense lights, White, who retired from Rockwood Electric Utility, hopes so.  

“We’ll need to pay the light bill,” he said, “and it’s going to hit us a lick.”