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Sullivan County begins funding Boone Lake Association

J. H. Osborne • Updated Jan 17, 2018 at 8:34 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County taxpayers will be kicking in $18,000 to help the Boone Lake Association (BLA) stay afloat financially.

The Sullivan County Commission voted Tuesday to grant the group’s request for funding, which BLA Vice President Tom McKee said is needed to offset a drastic decline in dues payments from association members since repairs to Boone Dam began.

The association, largely made up of lakeside homeowners, describes itself as an environmentalist organization. It has for years coordinated an annual volunteer cleanup of the lake and also pays a work crew to regularly remove debris from the waterway. That has continued on what water is left since the Tennessee Valley Authority dropped the lake’s level in order to make repairs to Boone Dam. But most members haven’t continued to support the association financially.

Lead sponsors of the resolution to grant the funding were commissioners Baxter Hood and Angie Stanley.

Stanley amended the resolution prior to the commission’s vote to make clear: it is a one-time expenditure (not to be expected each year until dam repairs are completed and the lake level rises); and the county’s funding is meant to be spent only on keeping the waterways clear — not to clean or clear private property.

McKee was asked if the latter stipulation would make it hard for the association’s paid work crew to clean the lake, because property lines extend into the lake’s bed.

McKee said the association’s crews will only be clearing the waterway.

Asked if the association would be back next year to ask for money again, McKee said that isn’t the plan at this point.

The Boone Lake Association’s annual budget is about $100,000, McKee said, which goes for paying the work crew and for equipment.

The group already has received funding for this year from Johnson City and Washington County.

McKee’s push for county funding has made much of local impact monies TVA has paid to local governments, arguing that money should be shared to fund the association’s cleaning of the lake. McKee repeatedly said Sullivan County has received $800,000 per year.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said that isn’t true. Venable said the county received about $580,000 last year — but the $800,000 figure might include impact monies received by the cities located inside the county.

The impact money goes into the county’s general fund and does not come with any stipulations as to how it can be spent, Venable said, and is meant to help local governments offset lost revenue caused by TVA projects (for example, drops in sales tax collections and potential decline in property tax revenues due to negative impact on market value of lakeside homes during the lake’s drawdown).

McKee also has told county commissioners Sullivan County could be held liable if a boater on Boone Lake were to be injured due to hitting debris in the waterway.

Venable said he is pretty certain that’s not the case.

The county is working with Washington County to join an effort to secure special litter grant monies to go toward Boone Lake’s cleanup, Venable said. And if that grant comes through, Sullivan County’s proceeds will go first toward returning $18,000 to the county’s general fund.

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