published Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Athens, McMinn County receive funding

McMinn County Mayor John Gentry
McMinn County Mayor John Gentry
Photo by Randall Higgins /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Tenn. — Athens and McMinn County recently received grant funding to improve the sustainability of their infrastructures.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation awarded a $28,080 Green Development Grant to Athens for use in its Green Streets Initiative program, and the state awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to the county to extend sewer line service to E.K. Baker Elementary School, located northwest of Athens.

The Green Development Grant, which the city matched with $21,300, will support Athens' long-term commitment to balancing the infrastructural needs and environmental impacts inherent in maintaining good roadways, said Shawn Lindsey, director of the city's Public Works Department.

"The Green Development Grant ... will allow us to take our Green Streets Initiative to the next level," Lindsey said.

The funding will go toward the purchase of a spray/squeegee machine, a small tractor-like vehicle equipped for coating roads with special sealants intended to increase the working life of pavement.

The cost of the machine -- about $51,000 -- and an annual materials expense of $70,000 still will result in environmentally friendly savings, Lindsey said. Rejuvenating asphalt roads could double their regular lifespans, which last between 15 and 20 years.

Implementing the spray/squeegee machine dovetails with a prior green-minded commitment the city has made with the purchase of a truck-towed asphalt recycler, Lindsey said. Public Works crews have been experimenting with different aggregate materials such as crumb rubber and glass, reducing Athens' need for new asphalt by 35 percent.

Increasing prices and lower qualities of asphalt products are major factors affecting the proper maintenance of good roads in the future, according to a memo released by Athens City Manager Mitchell Moore.

"This problem is very serious, and we should not expect to do any maintenance to a road that has been overlaid for up to 10 years," Moore said. "Pavement life is typically 15 to 20 years, but currently pavement is sliding and coming up on roads we paved two and four years ago."

The E.K. Baker Elementary School sewer service project is also part of a larger program, McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said. The project, which received $107,000 in additional funding from McMinn County Schools, makes Baker the third or fourth school in recent years that has switched from a self-contained septic system to a sewer hookup.

"The long-term benefit is that we save on money and manpower," Gentry said.

School septic systems require maintenance, plus they are susceptible to issues related to sustaining heavy usage or experiencing no usage at all, according to the school calendar. McMinn County will be working with Athens Utilities to provide sewer service to the school.

The sewer line extension also offers tangent benefits, Gentry said. The extension will provide ready-made access to the wastewater network for land that is "prime for development," he said.

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