Health and Welfare workshop hears nine presentations
Published 11:50 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022
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BY IVAN SANDERS
The Carter County Health and Welfare Committee heard from nine residents on Monday with suggestions on how to spend the $11 million in American Rescue Plan funding the county is expected to receive.
It was the first of three town halls that Committee Chairman Dr. Robert Acuff has scheduled.
“We want to make sure that the projects will help the most people and that’s why we want everybody’s input,” Acuff said prior to hearing the presentations. “When people think about $11 million, that’s a lot of money but once you start giving it out, it’s not a lot of money.”
Brad Whitson, who spoke on the need for water on the lower end of Laurels Road. Whitson said he had been in his house for 25 years and had waited that long to get water. “I just recently spent $3,547 for a new well due to my other one rusting,” said Whitson. He said that Gap Creek water stopped at the Pumpkin Patch store. The city water system is 2,200 feet away from Whitson’s house, but he said the city has no plans of extending the water service.
Buford Peters with the Peter’s Hollow Water District which serves 80 families, who wants to install a back-up water system for the district — a project that has been ongoing for 10 years at the request of the state. The water district is state approved with a ranking on its water system. However if something was to happen to prevent water which comes from two wells to the homes, there is no back up system. The state’s suggestion is that the utility ties into the First Utility District with a pumping station that could supply water. Peters said the system does not have the funds to tie onto the First Utility’s water system. The estimate is up to $200,000 to do so.
Diane Thisell, who is a grief recovery coach helping coach people through different losses in their life. She was asking to help fund an opportunity to put teachers, coaches, and school administrators through a four-week program to help students deal with grief, especially if they lost something during the COVID epidemic. She said the cost would be $200 per person for the four-week program.
Carol Landis, a former earth science teacher, who appeared to remind the committee to keep in mind that climate change is real and happening. Landis said the county needs to take into consideration what happened in middle Tennessee with the flooding and make sure the county can handle that type of rain event. She also shared that Upper East Tennessee is a place for people to seek refuge from storms.
Leslie Salling, president of United Way of East TN Highlands, who told the committee the importance of remembering the non-profits who are working with children to make sure those kids are ready to learn. She cited statistics that show many children cannot read at the third-grade level.
Chris Little, who spoke to the committee of the need to expand demolition at the county landfill as well as showed support for all the water projects. Little also encouraged the committee to address the issue of heating costs which impact the poor the most. He suggested the development of a propane utility district.
Donnie Cable of the 6th District, who shared the need of 326 homes in the Elk Mills area that don’t have running water. Cable told the committee that the issue is one of safety and health emphasizing that “Elk Mills is not off the edge of the world — it’s still in Carter County.” Cable also noted the need for a rescue squad crew and a fire truck for a substation. He said it takes a rescue squad 40 minutes to reach his house and if he needed medical help he would be better off going to the field behind his house and calling Med Flight for assistance. “Our community is hurting,” Cable said.
Roger Colbaugh, superintendent of highways, who spoke on behalf of county employees who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic asking for $12,000 per employee for working during the trying time. Colbaugh encouraged the committee to bring to the full commission how much money to take out of the rescue act to give to employees. “I think our employees deserve it and need it for their families. Most of the money would go back into the county,” Colbaugh said. The request would total over $3.6 million for 302 employees in the county.
City Manager Daniel Estes, who appeared before the board asking for $2.6 million from the TDEC monies of $7.4 million for utility infrastructure and $1.5 million from the ARP money to go toward the purchase of a ladder fire truck which can be used by the city and county.
Acuff challenged the committee to do some homework on how to score the projects based on importance so that a numeric value can be assigned to each project.
The Health and Welfare Committee will be meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. and also on March 28 for the last town hall for residents to share prospective projects to be considered.