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Highway department eyes growth

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County Highway Department may be expanding in the future.

Unicoi County Highway Department Road Superintendent Terry Haynes announced that he is looking at a plot of land next to the highway department’s current location to purchase. Haynes announced the opportunity to the Unicoi County Building and Grounds Committee during their Tuesday, Jan. 19, meeting.

According to Haynes, the real estate is estimated to be worth $500,000, but the owner is asking for much less.

“I’ve spoken to the landowner and he would sell for $150,000,” Haynes said. “It would give us much needed space for storage. We could use it to store salt, stone, pipe and other supplies including some trucks.”

Haynes acknowledged that the location is perfect for the highway department and the county. “It’s right across from the highway department and we are very close to the interstate there,” Haynes said. “This could be land that if a business wanted to come in later, we could move and sell. Right now, the land is considered a ‘brown fill’ and could be leveled off with clay. The owner says the only two things you can’t be built on that land is a school or a hospital.”

The Unicoi County Building and Grounds Committee agreed with Haynes on purchasing the land.

“I make a motion that we let Terry (Haynes) gather more information on the land next to the highway department,” Unicoi County Building and Grounds Committee member Matthew Rice said. Unicoi County Building and Grounds Committee member Jamie Harris seconded the motion and the committee voted unanimously to allow Haynes to get an official quote on the land.

Moving on, the committee heard an update on land that the county is eyeing on the Washington County/Unicoi County line. During their July 15 Unicoi County Rafting, Tourism and Economic Development Committee meeting, committee chairman Rice suggested that the committee look at a piece of land that is located near the Unicoi County and Washington County border on Highway 81 South.

According to Rice, the project would be paid for with a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) that had been frozen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a proposal to do a land survey from Doug Treadway for $2,100 and we also have a land purchase agreement to get the property and that is contingent on acquiring TWRA grants,” Rice said during the July 15 meeting.

According to Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, Unicoi County has officially secured the TWRA grant for the border land. “We did secure a $50,000 grant to secure the property at the border,” Evely said during the Jan. Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting.

Rice had previously acknowledged that the land already acts as a take out for kayakers and that the county could make some minor improvements such as picnic tables to the land to bring in more outdoor enthusiasts to the county.