Health and Wellness Workshop hears nine presentations – www.elizabethton.com

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BY IVAN SANDERS

STAR STAFF

The Carter County Health and Wellness Committee heard from nine residents Monday with suggestions on how to spend the $11 million in U.S. bailout funding the county is expected to receive.

This was the first of three public meetings planned by the committee’s chairman, Dr. Robert Acuff.

“We want to make sure the projects will help the most people and that’s why we want everyone’s input,” Acuff said before hearing the presentations. “When people think $11 million, that’s a lot of money, but once you start giving it away, it’s not a lot of money.”

Presentations included:

  • Brad Whitson, who spoke about the need for water at the lower end of Laurels Road. Whitson said he had been in his home for 25 years and had waited so long for water. “I recently spent $3,547 on a new sink due to my other one rusting,” Whitson said. He said the Gap Creek water stopped at the Pumpkin Patch store. The city’s water system is 2,200 feet from Whitson’s home, but he said the city has no plans to extend water service.

  • Buford Peters with the Peter’s Hollow Water District which serves 80 families, who wants to install a backup water system for the district – a 10 year project at the request of the state. The water district is state approved with a rating on its water system. However, should something happen to prevent water from two wells from reaching homes, there is no backup system. The state’s suggestion is that the utility be connected to the first utility district with a pump station that could supply water. Peters said the system lacked the funds to connect to First Utility’s water system. The estimate is up to $200,000 to do so.

  • Diane Thisell, who is a grief recovery coach helping people through different losses in their lives. She was asking to help fund an opportunity to put teachers, coaches and school administrators into a four-week program to help students cope with grief, especially if they’ve lost something during the COVID outbreak. . 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 remember that climate change is real and happening. Landis said the county needs to take into consideration what happened in central Tennessee with the flooding and make sure the county can handle this type of rain event. She also shared that Upper East Tennessee is a place where people can take refuge from storms.

  • Leslie Salling, president of United Way of East TN Highlands, who told the committee the importance of remembering nonprofits that work with children to ensure those children are ready to learn. She cited statistics that show that many children cannot read at the third grade level.

  • Chris Little, who spoke to the committee about the need to extend demolition to the county landfill and showed his support for all water projects. Little also encouraged the committee to address the issue of which heating costs impact the poor the most. He suggested the development of a propane utility district.

  • Donnie Cable of the 6th District, who shared the need for 326 homes in the Elk Mills area that don’t have running water. Cable told the committee it was a safety and health issue, pointing out that “Elk Mills isn’t at the end of the world – it’s still in Carter County.” Cable also noted the need for a rescue team and a fire truck for a substation. He said it took 40 minutes for a rescue team to reach his house and if he needed medical help he had better go to the field behind his house and call Med Flight to get help. “Our community is hurting,” Cable said.

  • Highways Superintendent Roger Colbaugh, who spoke on behalf of county employees who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic, asking $12,000 per employee for working during the difficult time. Colbaugh encouraged the committee to bring to the full commission the amount of money to be taken out of the bailout bill to give to employees. “I think our employees deserve it and need it for their families. Most of the money would go back to the county,” Colbaugh said. The claim would total more than $3.6 million for 302 county employees.

  • City Manager Daniel Estes, who appeared before the board, asked for $2.6 million of TDEC money of $7.4 million for utility infrastructure and $1.5 million for dollars from ARP money for the purchase of a ladder fire truck that can be used by the city and county.

Acuff challenged the committee to do some research on how to rate projects based on their importance so that a numerical value could be assigned to each project.

The Health and Wellness Committee will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. and also March 28 for the final public meeting for residents to share forward-looking projects to consider.

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