PIKEVILLE, Tenn. - More than $1 million in grant funding was doled out Tuesday as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam made stops in three Sequatchie Valley counties.
All told, Pikeville, Dunlap, Monteagle and Tracy City netted more than $1.12 million for infrastructure improvements for future and ongoing projects.
In Bledsoe County, Haslam handed over a $250,000 Tennessee Energy grant to help install new windows, lighting, climate control and insulation at the old Pikeville Elementary School on the south end of town. He also announced a $59,200 Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement grant to the county and Pikeville for a permanent farmers market on the courthouse square.
Plans are to renovate the old school into a new Pikeville Municipal Complex that will house the city's municipal offices, police department, courtroom, community kitchen and training facilities for workforce development and industrial recruitment.
Officials see agricultural and downtown enhancement projects going hand-in-hand with ongoing revitalization efforts in the small city's downtown area.
"Folks, you're going to see something with this farmers market and community kitchen that you have never seen before," Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier told people at the event in Pikeville. "This is going to be part of the initiative the governor has stated to make Tennessee the number one state in agriculture in the South. And Bledsoe County is going to be the number one county in Southeast Tennessee in agriculture."
Pikeville Mayor Phil Cagle said the city and community will benefit economically for generations to come.
Over the last decade, Pikeville's downtown and the courthouse square have undergone a major facelift with new sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting and a town clock. More beautification work is planned for Main Street storefronts and a veterans park next to the farmers market site.
Dunlap got started on downtown beautification more than 10 years ago.
The town's main drag, Rankin Avenue, has been the target of streetscaping work, new lighting, sidewalk décor and other improvements for years. More recently, officials have worked on a pedestrian greenway along Coops Creek. Much of the work has been funded through Tennessee Department of Transportation grants.
On Tuesday, Haslam announced a $591,141 TDOT enhancement grant for the second phase of the Coops Creek Greenway project, which will include parking, bicycle racks and an area for public events. The project will connect residential areas, schools and downtown's business district with an east-west pedestrian/bicycle trail through the Sequatchie County town.
"Most people live right here in the city. The kids can get on this and ride their bike to school, they can walk to school," Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land said. "It's not only going to improve safety, it's going to improve our health. It's going to be good for the whole community."
Harris Park, a block east of Rankin Avenue, also has been improved in recent years with plans for a major expansion after the city began converting the sites of the former county jail and city maintenance buildings for expansion space.
Monteagle and Tracy City are central to a project to restore the old Mountain Goat Railroad as a pedestrian and biking trail between Cowan in Franklin County and Tracy City in Grundy County. More than $800,000 in grants will boost efforts in both Grundy County towns.
Monteagle got $216,320 to install 2,000 feet of sidewalks on the east side of U.S. Highway 64 that will link to the developing multiuse trail and park downtown. The project will also include a pedestrian crosswalk.
Tracy City got a $603,569 grant to fund the "Downtown Sidewalk and Mountain Goat Trail Connector Project" to benefit pedestrians and cyclists.
The Mountain Goat Trail Alliance netted grant money for trail development that includes ongoing pieces of projects in the towns along its path. In Monteagle, the trail will cut through town near the same areas targeted for enhancements.
Researchers have said the trail project, when completed, will have a significant economic impact on the areas it touches for decades to come.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.