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Library, Chamber benefit from distribution of ARPA funding

Erwin Record Photo by Bryan Stevens • The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce received $4,344 in ARPA funding to help deal with an aging HVAC system.

By Ty Butler

The Unicoi County Commission held a work sessions meeting Thursday, July 28, to discuss ways to allocate the county’s 2022-2023 American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Two separate HVAC issues at the Unicoi County Public Library and the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce  were addressed with a total of $38,344 in ARPA funding being designated to help mitigate ongoing problems at those facilities. 

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely said that the Commission secured $34,000 for UCPL while also providing $4,344 for the Chamber’s HVAC concerns.

During a previous meeting in late July, Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp stated that the HVAC issues started just under a year ago and that the Chamber’s central air conditioner had been in active use for 12 years.

“There’s so much humidity in the building that we’re having ceiling tiles starting to fall,” Delp explained.

She added that the doors inside the building had even expanded due to 90 degree temperatures. Delp noted that the difficulty with the doors has yet to find a resolution.

Commissioners ultimately voted to allocate some relief to the Chamber.

A $67,696 grant to transition Martin’s Creek communication equipment to a new building was approved during a meeting on Monday, July 25. Evely said that the funds will go toward improving the county’s emergency communications systems for local emergency responders.

According to Unicoi County Emergency Management Agency Director Jimmy Erwin, the county’s emergency communication system had slowly deteriorated through the years and emergency workers were having difficulties overcoming infrastructure and technology challenges.

“The first step in our plan was to replace the buildings at Martin’s Creek and Buffalo Mountain,” Evely said, adding that part of the process has now been completed.

“The second phase is moving the existing equipment that’s in the old building and reinstalling it at the two new sites.”

A third location is on the horizon for a new communications building, but Martin’s Creek and Buffalo Mountain are the two areas of interest for right now.

The Commission also supported non-profits with ARPA funds, equaling $122,709 for those not included in the budget.

Overall, the Commission received $3,473,563 in ARPA funds; after allocating the money throughout various projects, the Commission is still left with $1,840,514.51 to spend.

According to an ARPA funds overview paper, provided by Evely, $751,624.77 of total ARPA funds were used to support local businesses and other entities in 2021-2022.