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Panel seeks help with sinkhole issue

The Unicoi County Commission addressed the pending sinkhole situation that has affected Love Chapel Elementary school and all property owners in the vicinity at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.
The motion that passed unanimously with Commissioner Sue Jean Wilson absent included applying for assistance through Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as a study to survey all land surrounding the elementary school and previous sinkhole activity.
Commissioners Doug Bowman and Dwight Bennett motioned to waive the agenda in order to discuss the issue and urge legislators to get involved.
“I say we contact our legislators on the state and federal level and ask them,” Bowman said.
Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Ed Herndon said the county attempted to apply for assistance in August.
“FEMA informed us that they did not cover sinkholes,” Herndon said. “They are considered, not a disaster, but a pre-existing condition that would be aggravated by a disaster.”
Herndon said he gathered the information from an email response from the agency.
“I think we’d like to go ahead and make an official request for the property owners and TEMA and FEMA to go ahead and help the property owners in the area,” Bowman said.
Bowman urged all commissioners to contact legislators to get them involved in the situation.
“I’m with Doug (Bowman) on that,” Commissioner Bill Hensley said. “It’s not going to hurt to go ahead and make a written request.”
County Commission Chairperson James “Mickey” Hatcher said the potential for the sinkhole activity to affect surrounding property owners is real.
“I feel like that there is potential for a lot of properties to be affected by this other than the property that’s already sitting there,” Hatcher said. “It would be beneficial to get [legislators] involved.”
The first appearance of a sinkhole in the area was in December 2011 underneath a pool on private property and the second sinkhole was discovered the morning of Aug. 18 on Love Chapel school grounds.

For the remainder of this article please see the March 26, 2013 edition of The Erwin Record.