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County Commission approves funding for trail system

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County Commission introduced its newest member during the Feb. 22 commission meeting. Unicoi County Commissioner Brian Delp hit the ground running by joining his fellow commissioners in voting on a proposed multi-modal trail system.

The motion to approve the $50,000 funding came from Commissioner Matthew Rice and was seconded by Vice Chairman Jamie Harris. The motion passed by a count of 5-3, with Commissioners Matthew Rice, Jamie Harris, Stephen Hendrix, Marie Rice and Loren Thomas approving the $50,000 commitment and commissioners Todd Wilcox, Brian Delp and John Mosley opposing. Unicoi County Commissioner Jason Harris was absent from Monday’s meeting.

According to Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County Chairman Lee Brown, a rough estimate of the 116-acre multi-modal trail system would cost roughly between a half million and a million dollars but could only cost the county and the Town of Erwin $50,000 each.

“I don’t have a hard number, but it would be my guess the total project would cost between a half-million to a million dollars and a majority of that would come from the ARC grant,” Brown said during the Unicoi County Rafting, Tourism and Economic Development Committee on Feb. 10. Brown acknowledged that the trail could bring many outdoor enthusiasts to Erwin.

“A bike trail is a great way to recruit businesses to our region,” Brown said on Monday evening. “We also have to provide some amenities and attractions to keep the younger generation here.”

Brown added that there may be more funding available for the project during Monday’s commission meeting. “We are chasing other grants that deal with healthy Tennessee among others,” Brown said on Monday. “We feel that this trail would compliment the other trails in the region. Enthusiasts can come stay for a weekend or a week and enjoy all of our region’s trails. Outdoor recreation creates a lot of tax revenue.”

Brown confirmed that talks with the Town of Erwin to discuss an investment of $50,000 have not been scheduled yet.

In closing, the county commission voted unanimously to table the creation of a communications board until a later date. The communications board was first suggested during a meeting on Feb. 5 of the Unicoi Public Safety Committee. Since taking on the numerous issues with the radio system, the Unicoi County Public Safety Committee has pulled together the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, Erwin Police Department, Unicoi Police Department, the 911 board, Unicoi County EMS, the firefighters association, radio consultant Todd Malone, local emergency managers Jimmy Erwin and the late Ed Herndon and Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely to solve many of the county’s issues.

“We have been able to accomplish a lot and each entity has been able to upgrade equipment but it’s time we have one committee that is responsible for the whole system,” Unicoi County Public Safety Committee Chairman Wilcox said during the Feb. 5 public safety meeting. “I propose that we establish a new committee that has representatives from each party to oversee the emergency radio.”

The Unicoi County Commission is scheduled to meet again March 22.