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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Completion of the Princess Theater project, improvements to the Kingston sewer plant and paving the entrance of the Roane County Industrial Park.
Those are three projects the new Roane County Economic Development Foundation voted to fund with TVA reparations.
The foundation board met Wednesday morning at The Roane Alliance.
The money for the projects is coming from the $40 million TVA is appropriating to the county for economic development.
The agency is trying to make the county “whole” because of the fly ash catastrophe that occurred at its Kingston Fossil Plant last year.
Kingston Mayor and Roane County Commission Chairman Troy Beets told board members that the sewer project is vital to Kingston's future.
“The city of Kingston has decided on this journey that we very badly need infrastructure improvements for economic development,” said Beets, chairman of the foundation board. “There's absolutely no room for us to grow and entice people to come build and grow inside our city if we don't have the infrastructure to help them.”
The sewer project has a price tag of $5 million.
“If you go out for bids, and you are able to make these enhancements to the sewer system at less than $5 million, what happens to the remaining funds?” asked Anda Ray, TVA senior vice president for environment and research.
“My understanding is it returns back to the foundation for disbursement by this board,” Beets responded.
The foundation board consists of local elected officials and TVA representatives.
Locally, Beets, Roane County Executive Mike Farmer, Harriman Mayor Chris Mason and Rockwood Mayor James Watts are on the board.
Representing TVA on the board are Ray, senior vice president for economic development John Bradley, vice president for valley relations Bob Morris and Kingston Fossil Plant manager Leslie Nale.
Mason submitted the Princess request on behalf of Harriman. The project has a $1.7 million price tag. Mason said the project is not about eating popcorn and watching movies in a refurbished theater.
He said the project will help revitalize Harriman's downtown and serve as an educational center for local students.
“It will be a cultural centerpiece for our region,” he said.
The paving project at the industrial park was submitted by Watts.
The project is expected to cost the foundation around $31,000.
“The Roane County Industrial Park has always been a vital part of our community,” Watts said. “We now have some opportunities to upgrade and enhance the old industrial park.”
The Roane County school system is also likely to benefit from foundation funding.
Earlier this year the school system asked the Roane County Commission for $32 million in capital improvements. The request has not been funded so far.
Farmer said the school system should submit a formal request to the foundation board.
“The school board needs to bring forward to this foundation board the proposal that was outlined back some months ago on the educational facility upgrades for Roane County for consideration at a future meeting,” Farmer said.
The board also heard from Roane County Road Superintendent Tom Hamby.
He asked them to consider giving the highway department around $5 million.
Beets told Hamby to channel his request through Farmer.
“Mr. Farmer will be glad to hear your request and carry your water for you,” Beets said.
Hamby said the money could allow him to buy new equipment and do more paving around the county.
“If you got a real nice home, you want a real good road to get to it,” Hamby said. “If you don't have a nice home, you want a nice road to get to it. I've got some that are practically down in the dirt.”
Hamby said the highway department building could also use some upgrades.
“It was built back in the 1970s and hasn't had hardly anything done to it,” he said.
Leslie Henderson, president and CEO of The Roane Alliance, asked the board to consider funding a public relations campaign for the county. She said the county image has been damaged by the disaster.
“I would like you to consider to put at least $1 million into that,” she said. “I think it will take at least that, if not more.”