published Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

South Pittsburg, Tenn., flood grant still in limbo

Flash flood hits downtown South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Heavy rains late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning brought flash flooding to downtown South Pittsburg, Tenn. The flooding, which left a layer of mud throughout downtown, damaged many area homes and businesses.
Rocks, mud and water caused heavy damage to cars at a housing development in South Pittsburg, Tenn., last month. Local leaders say the state is considering ways to help future communities whose disasters don't qualify for federal aid.
Rocks, mud and water caused heavy damage to cars at a housing development in South Pittsburg, Tenn., last month. Local leaders say the state is considering ways to help future communities whose disasters don't qualify for federal aid.
Photo by John Rawlston.

IF YOU GO

• What: Southeast Tennessee Development District pre-application event for homeowners who desire assistance

• Where: The Princess Theater, Cedar Avenue, South Pittsburg

• When: Thursday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. CDT

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. -- Even though city officials still aren't sure they'll be able to get a $300,000 grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to aid in flood relief, they still want homeowners to apply for help.

Mayor Jane Dawkins said officials with the Southeast Tennessee Development District will host a pre-application event at the Princess Theater on Thursday.

Officials said they are hopeful the city will be able to come up with the matching funds necessary to acquire the grant.

"We didn't know until the day they came to town that it's a 50-percent match," Dawkins said. "We have to come up with $150,000, which we obviously do not have."

City leaders are hoping that some of the work that's been done during the cleanup effort will qualify as "in-kind matching" funds.

Dawkins said it is possible that work that will be done in the future could count toward those matching funds, too.

Officials with the development district went door-to-door surveying the damage to the city's residential areas last month.

"They identified a lot of the homes that had damage," Dawkins said. "We have that list and that information. Anyone who had damage and at least wants to see if they're eligible to get a little bit of help, we want them to apply."

Some residents identified during the development district's inspection may be mailed applications, she said.

Dawkins said applications will be available at City Hall for any homeowners who don't receive one in the mail.

City leaders will have no part in deciding who gets the funds or how those funds are distributed.

Chuck Hammonds, director of community development for the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said last month that his agency will manage the distribution of those funds whenever they are awarded to the city.

Officials said that if the city gets the money, it won't be able to help businesses or the downtown area's elderly housing rental units.

"It will not help a rental situation, whether you own the building or not," Dawkins said. "This is purely money for homeowners who had some damage."

The THDA grant is the only government money the city has been offered since the flash flood struck July 10, but city leaders are continuing to search for more to aid in the relief effort.

"We're still calling and asking for help," Dawkins said. "We're applying for everything that we can. We're still looking, and we still have people out there on our behalf."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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