The city’s partner, the Charleston-Calhoun Hiwassee Historical Society, has taken steps to transform Charleston into a destination for history buffs. In addition to a campaign to highlight the community’s historic areas and structures, the organization has initiated an effort to secure funding for a new heritage center which could double as a town hall.
The proposed center might not only benefit the history-oriented group, it could be a bonanza for city government. Mayor Walter Goode said it is expected the center, in the old Regions Bank building in downtown Charleston, can house offices for City Manager Carolyn Geren and the city recorder. It could also host Charleston City Commission and other community meetings.
It is hoped the facility will be an impressive welcome center for visitors to the city.
This is just one Charleston project expected to move forward in 2012. There are several other challenges ahead for Goode and Commissioners Larry Anderson and Donna McDermott, several in partnership with the historical society.
These include a greenway walking trail from behind the proposed heritage center, through the city park to the Hiwassee River and then along the railroad tracks to the east. “We have two property owners along the route of the walking trail who need to buy into the proposal,” said the mayor.
Another big partnership event being planned for the coming year is a Cowpea Festival. For the uninformed, cowpea is another name for black-eyed peas.
The Charleston City Commission has taken steps to increase grant opportunities. Commissioners have approved a motion to annex 134 acres at the rear of Charleston Elementary School, which would bring 272 new residents into the city.
“Grant applications have been limited, because we are a city of under 1,000 residents,” Goode said. “This annexation will bring our population to near that mark and should open some doors.”
An even more ambitious annexation effort is being discussed by city officials. Goode, Anderson and McDermott have seriously discussed the opportunity to annex several miles to the west of the current city limits, all the way to Frontage Road to the west of Interstate 75.
This would take in the Arch Chemicals operation on Old Lower River Road, the Ponderosa and Love truck stops at the I-75 interchange, the General Electric distributorship, Wacker Polysilicon North America’s industrial development, the new Amazon.com distribution center, Wright Brothers Construction and Walker Valley High School.
“If we are to grow and expand, we have to go to the west,” Goode said.
A downside to this proposal is the city of Cleveland is discussing a corridor annexation north along Mouse Creek Road to Bradley County’s Hiwassee Park, where Amazon, Wacker, G.E. and Wright Brothers Construction are located.
Both cities are expected to move ahead with preliminary plans for annexation this year. Charleston officials are planning to circulate a questionnaire for feedback from residents and industry leaders in the proposed annexation area.
In addition to annexation proposals and plans for a welcome (heritage) center, Charleston city government is considering several other issues.
A big project for the city is the replacement of Charleston’s metal water tank.
The tank, located off Wool Street, has deteriorated from long years of service and must be refurbished or replaced.
Phillip Shelton of the Calhoun-Charleston Utility District told commissioners repair of the metal tank would be much more costly than replacing it with a 500,000- to 1-million-gallon concrete tank. Still, the cost would be $100,000 to $150,000.
The city is applying for a Community Development Block Grant for the construction of a new concrete tank. “This will also give us increased capacity to serve our citizens well into the future,” Goode said.
The location of the tank has not yet been determined. “That will be decided by the utility district,” Goode said.
Goode emphasized the city had no huge difficulties this past year, hoping this streak of good fortune continues.
Charleston has suffered from severe weather conditions in the past, including severe flooding. Some corrections of drainage problems in the area have alleviated most of those problems.
Despite this year of progress and good fortune, Goode and city commissioners are expecting a busy year ahead. Annexation plans must still be worked out. Regardless of how annexation efforts play out, Charleston officials are still looking ahead to continued growth and expansion.