Carter County Seeks State Funding for Three Major Projects | News
ELIZABETHTON — Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby said the county expects a lot of good news from upcoming state budget decisions.
“The county has three projects that we have been told will have broad support from the state government,” Woodby said in a March 4 interview.
Woodby said the biggest of the projects is the plan to convert the county-owned Workforce Development Complex in the Watauga Industrial Park into an educational center for students pursuing vocational and technical training, and for students enrolled in college programs. She said the state is considering up to $20 million to turn the 50-year-old building into an educational center.
The second major project is the extension of the Tweetsie Trail, a biking and hiking trail that currently spans part of the former East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad from Legion Street east of Johnson City to Hatcher Lane at the east end of Elizabethton. The plan is to extend the trail along more of the railroad right-of-way through Valley Forge and a rail tunnel to the Hampton area along Rittertown Road. The plan would also extend the trail to the site of a former covered bridge over the River Doe in Hampton and, in another direction, connect it to biking and hiking trails in the Hampton watershed which is owned by the City of Elizabethton. . The State’s contribution to this project could reach $5.25 million.
The third project is not really a Carter County initiative, but it is located in Carter County. It is a drug treatment center that would treat drug addicts in the state criminal courts. First Judicial District Criminal Court Judges Stacy Street and Lisa Rice have been very active in getting county and municipal governments in the Eight Counties area of Tennessee’s First Development District to join the system to help end the cycle of drug addiction and prison sentences. The processing facility would be located in the former prison annex of the Northeast Correctional Complex at Roan Mountain. This annex of the prison has been closed and is vacant.
Plans for the Workforce Development Complex received a big boost last November when Governor Bill Lee toured both buildings. It was the second time that Lee had met with the promoters of the project. Lee and his team listened to the proposals and saw the blueprints and drawings of the plan during a session in Nashville on August 12.
But Lee’s tour of the facility in November was the first time he’s seen inside the large facility and how much space there is for training and classrooms. The plan is for the complex to be developed by the project’s educational partners, which are the Carter County School System, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton, and Northeast State Community College.
After his tour of the facility, Lee held a short press conference during which he said, “What I’ve seen here is collaboration and partnership with TCAT, the upstate- East, the Carter County school system and community leaders all coming together to provide opportunities for people. in this community. This is what happens when people work together and this community works together to provide opportunities for young people and adults.
Lee said he has seen an increase in vocational technical education statewide since he launched his Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education program. He said he wanted to give more people who have the talents to use their hands the opportunity to learn the necessary skills. Lee said beyond helping individuals, increased opportunities for skills development make Tennessee a more attractive state for business and industry to expand or relocate.
The Judges’ effort to establish a drug treatment center at Roan Mountain added to the proposals for the workforce development complex. Woodby said inmates treated at the Roan Mountain Center may be able to obtain degrees, certifications and other training to help them embark on a drug-free life. These could include obtaining a GED and a driver’s license.
Justices Street and Rice said the treatment of inmates would not include the use of another drug to keep patients away from other drugs. The plan is to have Roan Mountain Jail transferred from the Tennessee Department of Corrections to the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Local governments would contribute funding by committing the money received from pharmaceutical drug companies to a lawsuit that was settled out of court.
The final project is the Tweetsie Trail extension. The project includes running the trail from Hatcher Lane to the Valley Forge area where current bridges allow US Highway 321 and US Highway 19E to cross the River Doe and another old highway bridge still stands standing, but is in poor condition, with holes in the span. The bridge that allowed the railroad to cross the river no longer exists. Woodby said building a bridge over the Doe would be the biggest cost of the project.