KINGSTON, Tenn. — If you don't request, you don't receive.
That's the lesson Kingston Mayor Troy Beets took to heart after a small tornado ripped through part of the city's downtown June 10, damaging several public housing units.
Beets said he knew through his chairmanship of the East Tennessee Development District that storm cleanup help could be found through the new Tennessee Housing Development Agency's Rebuild & Recovery Program.
So he made a call, and a visit by a THDA representative was arranged. That employee then received an overview of storm damage during a tour in Beets' pickup.
Less than a week later, Kingston received a $150,000 grant. It's the only grant awarded so far from THDA's new program, funded last year with $2 million.
"I've been on council 33 years, and I've never seen anything move this fast," Kingston City Council member Don White said of the grant award.
The tornado, with wind gusts of up to 70 mph, hit the Lakewood Village low-income housing project, Beets said. Other areas of downtown Kingston also suffered the tornado's wrath, City Manager David L. Bolling said.
"I was just amazed to see the damage done in Kingston," said state Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston. Toppled trees hit housing units, Beets said. Bolling said several other structures received roof damage.
Since the tornado, the city has hauled off some 637 tons -- the equivalent of 425 truckloads -- of debris, Bolling said. An additional 225 tons or so remain to be hauled, he said.
Bolling said the city has to match part of the THDA grant, and while the exact extent of the match hasn't been pinned down, in-kind labor can be used.
Development agency employee Katie Moore said the tornado didn't cause enough damage to merit help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We hope that THDA's Rebuild & Recover funds can help attract other funding and be a catalyst for Kingston's quick recovery," she said.
THDA, the state's housing finance agency, provides mortgage loans for low- and moderate-income buyers.
Funding for the Rebuild & Recover program is generated through earnings from the mortgage loan program.