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Unicoi BMA approves applying for TDOT grant to expand trails

By Brad Hicks | Erwin Bureau Chief | Johnson City Press
The town of Unicoi is looking to secure state funding to initiate the first step in the eventual expansion of its recreational trail system.
At the regular meeting of the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday, Jan. 19, the board unanimously approved a resolution supporting an application for Tennessee Department of Transportation Community Transportation Planning grant funding.
The total amount of the grant the town is seeking is $175,000. If awarded, the grant would require at 10 percent match from the town, and the resolution approved Monday stipulates that the town would use $17,500 from its general fund to pay this match.
Unicoi Town Recorder Larry Rea said the grant funding would be used to determine what would be necessary to construct a biking/pedestrian trail that would essentially “loop” around the town and eventually connect with other area trails. This study would determine help determine items such as the cost of the trail, the easements needed for its construction and the trail’s final design, Rea said.
Rea said the planned trail starts along Tinker Road, run up Exit 34 along Interstate 26 to Exit 32, where it would connect with the Pinnacle Fire Tower Trail trailhead. The trail would also come down State Highway 173 from the Pinnacle Tower Trail to connect with the Unicoi Visitors Information Center.
From the town’s visitors center, the trail would come back into town, passing several restaurants and Unicoi Town Hall before passing along the Cherokee Hotshots training facility on Highway 107. Rea said the trail would also go down Massachusetts Avenue a bit before cutting over to Tennessee Street past Unicoi Elementary School, connecting all the way back to Tinker Road along the Tennessee Street extension project.
Rea said the planned trail is part of a larger trail project that has been discussed for some time. As part of the plan for the larger trail, the county is also to construct a trail between the town of Erwin and town of Unicoi. Rea said through the construction of the county’s portion of the trail, the town of Unicoi’s planned trail would connect to the Erwin Linear Trail.
The trail would not only eventually connect to nearby portions of the Appalachian Trail, it would tie in with the Tweetsie Trail, Rea said.
The application deadline for the grant is this Friday.
The town of Erwin is also seeking $250,000 in funding through the TDOT Community Transportation Planning grant, which if awarded, would be used by the town to conduct a corridor study on the area running from the Jackson Love Highway to Harris Hollow Road. The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a resolution supporting the grant application at its Jan. 12 meeting.
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The board also approved the payment of severance pay to the town’s recently terminated program manager Gary Carver.
Rea said the town has around $5,000 appropriated in its budget for severance pay. After some discussion, the board opted to pay to Carver two months worth of pay, which amounted to around $5,200.
Carver had served as the town’s program manager for around eight months prior to his termination. Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch declined to say what led to Carver’s termination.
“I not going to talk personnel in public, but, yes, he is no longer with us,” Lynch said.