By Dave Ongie
The City of Johnson City received a pair of grants in the past month totaling $1.9 million, which is earmarked for projects that will bolster the city’s aging water and sewer infrastructure.
The first grant, which came from the Appalachian Regional Commission, will provide the city with $400,000 to help replace and rehabilitate water and sewer lines in the downtown district. Tom Witherspoon, Johnson City’s director of water and sewer services, said the money will go a long way in completing the $1.5 million project.
“The downtown area is some of our oldest infrastructure, and as we continue to make improvements downtown with redevelopment and new streetscapes, we want to be sure that the pipes underneath that are going to last another 120 years,” he said.
A second grant the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration totaling $1.5 million was announced last week and will be used to improve operations at Brush Creek, the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant. Much of the plant was constructed in 1972, and Witherspoon said the aeration equipment and blowers that will be replaced with the grant money have been in service since the early 1970s.
“So you’re looking at equipment that has reached its useful service life,” Witherspoon said. “At that point, it’s either not reliable or it’s not efficient. Replacement of that particular type of equipment will give us a more efficient operation, lower treatment costs and much more reliable operations going into the next 50 years.”
According to estimates by the First Tennessee Development District, which handled the grant application on behalf of the city, the project at Brush Creek is expected to create or retain 400 jobs and generate $9 million in private investment.
“It’s great to see such a strong investment made in the infrastructure of Johnson City,” said Congressman Phil Roe, who represents Tennessee’s First District. “This grant will aid in the continued revitalization of the city, leverage $9 million in private investment and promote long-term economic growth. With 400 jobs created, these funds will ensure Johnson City continues to thrive by promoting business development and investing in workforce development.”