Made possible through the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the packages include:
n A $75,000 TDEC grant that will replace the Cleveland Community Center roof with an energy-efficient thermoplastic polyolefin membrane topping as a part of the city’s ongoing efforts to reduce energy waste at the recreational facility through cutting excessive electricity usage.
n A $495,000 TDOT grant that will pay for concrete paths, new sidewalks and pedestrian crossing improvements in the general vicinity of Blythe Ferry Road, North Ocoee Street and Ocoee Crossing to create an east-west spur connector that will serve as the newest tentacle of the ever-growing Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway network.
“One of the things that’s exciting about being governor is seeing communities doing all they can to make [theirs] the kind of community where people want to live,” Haslam told a group of newsmen following Thursday’s festivities at the Community Center which is located off Church Street on the southern end of town. “We want Tennessee to be the place where people want their children and grandchildren to live ... but also, where businesses say, ‘We want to come invest there because our employees like being there.’”
The first-term governor, a former Knoxville mayor who was sent to Nashville by voters in 2010, pointed out, “All this adds up to making Tennessee the best place to live in the country.”
Of the new Community Center roof, Haslam laughed at himself for not being able to pronounce the entire name of the material — “thermoplastic polyolefin membrane” — but Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland threw him an assist by simply calling it “energy-efficient.”
But the governor was well-versed in the numbers. Projected savings created by the roof are estimated to be more than $323,000 over a 20-year period.
The TDEC grant money is made available through an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Under the Consent Decree, the state of Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs. As part of the grant program’s initial phase, $5.3 million in Clean Energy Grants was awarded in 2012 to a variety of projects within state government, municipalities, utilities, state colleges, universities and communities throughout Tennessee.
In a second cycle of Clean Energy Grants, Haslam will be announcing 19 recipients. The Cleveland award is the third such announcement.
The major TDOT award, given to the local Greenway, is an Enhancement Grant whose origin dates back to the 1990s when members of U.S. Congress chose to reallocate funds to state governments that could be shared with city and county jurisdictions “... to strengthen the historical, cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system,” according to a published grant briefing.
Since the launch of these Enhancement Grants, Tennessee communities have been awarded more than $274 million for initiatives such as restoration of historic transportation facilities, bike and pedestrian trail construction, landscaping and other nontraditional transportation projects.
“Enhancement Grants are just what they sound like,” Haslam explained. “Communities ... can’t always afford to do everything they’d like to do. These grants are applied for by communities all across the state. We take those and evaluate the proposals. I can assure you there are a lot more applications than there are awards.”
A few city workers who played a hand in Cleveland’s application packages were Patti Pettit, director of Parks & Recreation; Teresa Torbett, who works with Community Development Block Grant initiatives; and Timothy Passmore, a municipal intern, as well as others.
In his opening comments, Rowland credited the philanthropy of Cleveland business leaders Stan and Brenda Lawson who donated property that is making the Greenway spur possible.
The Lawsons attended Haslam’s presentation at the Community Center.
“The Greenway has become a very integral part of our community,” Brenda Lawson told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “Any time we can help with anything that helps the community, especially if it helps the kids get out and exercise more and helps to improve their health ... then that’s great. It’s great for anybody to pitch in and help.”
Stan Lawson added, “ ... Our contribution is just a piece of the puzzle.” He said the vast Greenway Network continues to grow and the more it expands, the more neighborhoods and destination points will be connected.
“I think [the Greenway] is wonderful,” Brenda added. “It has had an impact on individuals in the community who didn’t have any other means of getting any exercise, or getting out and enjoying our city.”
Her husband and business partner pointed out, “[Mouse Creek] used to be a creek with tires in it and trash. Now, the Greenway has helped.”
For one, the Greenway has improved access to the creek to allow workers and volunteers to help keep it clean, he said. And two, the well-kept linear park is an encouragement for community groups to pool their resources to keep Mouse Creek as clean as possible, he added.
“It kind of self-polices itself,” Stan pointed out. “The creek is a lot cleaner now. You couldn’t even get to it before [the Greenway came along].”
Cameron Fisher, longtime chairman of the Greenway board of directors, said this is the first time the fitness trail has received grant monies for expanding in any direction other than north and south.
“This is a spur,” he said of the state-funded project. “It doesn’t help us to get from the Village Green to the Hiwassee River, but it does help to connect neighborhoods. That’s the big thing. It will help to connect hundreds of families.”
He said areas like Bowman Hills, Bowman Forest, Edgewood, a variety of apartments and others will soon have a direct connection to the existing Greenway via Ocoee Crossing, and the property rights donation granted by the Lawsons.
Fisher said the east-west connector from the Blythe Ferry Road area to the Greenway has been discussed for years, but the priority has centered on extending the trail north and south. Before its four-mile length can be further extended, several property easements must be negotiated on either end. Settlements had already been reached — compliments of the Lawsons — for the east-west spur so the decision was made to shift directions for now.
“I’m excited because this is the first time we’ve actually gone off our existing Greenway,” Fisher said. “People sometimes think we’re only supposed to go north or south, but why can’t we go east or west? There’s people there, too.”
The Greenway’s popularity is growing as much as a connector of destination points and neighborhoods as it is a recreational or fitness facility, he pointed out.
Pettit, whose Parks & Recreation Department is benefiting from both state grants, said she is excited about the potential for each. The Cleveland Community Center’s new roof will be a money-saver and the addition to the Greenway Network will further grow community and neighborhood access, she said.
She credited the work of city staff members who worked to develop the grant application packages.
Also on hand for Thursday’s announcements were three of the four members of Bradley County’s legislative delegation. All praised Haslam for his commitment to communities and his vision for improving quality of life across Tennessee.
“We appreciate him being here this morning and also for bringing these checks,” said State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville who represents the 9th Senatorial District.
In addressing the large crowd, Bell stressed, “I want you all to remember, this is our money anyway. This is coming back to us, whether from the federal government or state government. This is taxpayer money that is being used ... in ways to enhance our communities.”
Bell said he and his wife use the Greenway regularly.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland who represents the 24th Legislative District and who serves as Assistant Majority Leader in the state House, described Thursday as a family day.
“Today, we are celebrating families,” he said. He described Haslam, Bell, state Sen. Todd Gardenhire (10th Senatorial District), state Rep. Eric Watson and himself as family men who understand the value of quality time with their loved ones. Use of the Greenway and the Community Center are family opportunities, he suggested.
Brooks concurred with Bell’s assessment.
“This is taxpayer money that is being returned to the families,” he said. “My family and I enjoy the Greenway. My wife encourages us to get out and walk regularly.”
Watson, R-Cleveland who represents the 22nd Legislative District and who chairs the House Judiciary, praised Haslam for his commitment to visiting the state’s smaller communities. He mentioned two that are part of his district — Ducktown and Decatur.
“He’s the only governor I’ve ever known, and I’ve talked to these other gentlemen ... the only governor who has ever taken the time to visit all the districts that we represent,” Watson said.
Watson called the pair of project-launching grants a product of teamwork between city, county and state governments — as made possible by Haslam’s vision for improving the quality of life for all Tennessee residents.
(Editor’s Note: In his “Keeping It Green” column to be published in Sunday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, Greenway Board Chairman Cameron Fisher provides a detailed description of the course to be taken by the new east-west spur connector. It reads, “The new path ... will begin (or end) at the current Greenway in Tinsley Park at the pedestrian bridge where it crosses Mouse Creek. It will continue east around the main ballfields following Fillauer Branch, which empties into Mouse Creek near that location. The spur will leave Tinsley Park at the Keith Street entrance where it will travel under Keith toward the BI-LO Shopping Center. It will continue to follow Fillauer Branch, until connecting with a new sidewalk near Logan’s and paralleling Ocoee Crossing. The spur will terminate at the corner of North Ocoee Street and Ocoee Crossing. New sidewalks on the west side of North Ocoee are also part of the project.”)