CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County is well on the way to completing its goal of weatherizing 158 homes in 18 months, an official said.
The increased efforts come after the Obama administration announced more than $99 million for Tennessee's Weatherization Assistance Program in March 2009. The 18-month goal began in April and will end Sept. 30.
Weatherization includes adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment. Families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- or about $44,000 a year for a family of four -- can receive up to $6,500 from the program.
According to a June 28 status report at www.tennessee.gov, Bradley County's agency has approved 170 applications for the weatherization program. In addition, bids have been requested on 138 homes, and 114 homes have been weatherized using stimulus funds.
Jacqueline Westfield, program coordinator with the Bradley-Cleveland Community Services Agency, which is handling the weatherization program, said the county met its benchmark of 134 weatherized homes by June 30.
"I would say that, across the state, 90 percent of the agencies are going to reach their benchmark for June 30," she said.
Bradley County's totals are lower than many of the other 18 agencies in the state, Ms. Westfield said, because the local agency doesn't accept applications from surrounding counties. For example, the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency in Putnam County handles applications for 13 surrounding counties.
But being a smaller agency means there's less staff to handle more work, she said.
From September 2008 through September 2009, Bradley County's agency approved applications for 23 homes. Since then, the agency has dealt with 134 applications and more are on the way, weatherization assistant Jarret Brown said.
The agency has added some temporary part-time staff to handle the load, Ms. Westfield said, but more help often is needed.
The agency also must deal with the occasional lagging contractor who must be prodded to meet benchmark deadlines, she said.
"We deal with a lot of contractors who work with other counties, so we're almost fighting for attention," she said. "It's a sibling rivalry kind of thing."
Last winter, the agency dealt with several cases in which local residents completely lost heat in their homes, Ms. Westfield said.
One of the residents, a woman on a fixed income with no way to fix her heater, was able to have her entire system replaced, Ms. Westfield said.
Despite the slow contractor work, fast deadlines and mounting applications, Ms. Westfield said she believes the agency is making progress.
"It's been a tremendous job for us, but we've weathered the storm very well," she said.
Continue reading by following these links to related stories:
Harrison Keely is an online breaking news producer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He also anchors the daily newscast. He joined the Times Free Press as a reporter in 2010. He previously served as managing editor of the Smoky Mountain Sentinel in western North Carolina and as a business reporter for the Washington Times in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Lee University in 2009 where he served as managing editor of the student news ...