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Grant will fund energy improvements

The Unicoi Tourist Information Center will soon be more energy efficient thanks to a grant from the state.
The state of Tennessee announced on June 15 that Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau awarded more than $3.1 million to fund energy efficiency projects of local governments and municipalities, utilities and state entities, including the town of Unicoi.
“Clean Tennessee Energy grants fund projects that help our communities become more energy efficient while providing long-term cost savings for taxpayers,” Haslam said. “I want to thank all of these groups for their commitment to improving our communities, our environment and our state.”
The center was awarded a 50/50 grant, according to Town of Unicoi Community Development Director Jennifer Gryder. The overall amount used for renovations will be $16,000 with half coming from the state and the other half coming from the town.
“We basically told them the amount of the project and they provided us with 50-percent of the money,” she said. “We provide the other 50-percent. The town was already looking to budget funds for replacing the windows; so this will just help us with that project and help save the town money.”
According to EPA Energy Star cost estimators, the entity is projected to save roughly $700 annual with the renovations.
“The grant is used to help promote clean energy in the state of Tennessee,” Gryder said. “With this we are wanting to replace our windows, which are extremely inefficient. They’re original windows from back around the 1970s
“They’re basically single-pane windows; so we’re looking to replace those with Energy Star double-pane windows. We are also looking to replace our heating unit, which is working at full capacity since it isn’t big enough.”
The facility is currently waiting to receive the contract back from the state, Gryder said, but she estimated that work could begin as early as September.
Funding for all the project comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, according to a press issued from the state. Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs in the state.
As of June 15, TDEC reimbursed nearly $6.1 million for grants toward a variety of projects to reduce environmental impact and operating costs at sites of new construction and other sites with aging infrastructure.