Initially the project was proposed to serve about 180 households in the economically depressed Beech Creek community south of Rogersville.
Hawkins County had contributed a $500,000 CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) and Kingsport was counting on another $1 million Rural Development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“There was probably about 180 households in that project originally,” said Hawkins County Mayor Melville Bailey. “Rural Development had promised the city of Kingsport a million dollar grant. But, over a period of time it went from a million dollar grant to a million dollar loan because they said Kingsport was too affluent and didn’t qualify for the grant.”
Ultimately Kingsport didn’t accept the loan, but agreed to move forward with the project using the $500,000 CDBG funds contributed by Hawkins County, with between 40 and 45 homes to be connected on Beech Creek Road from the Sullivan County line into Hawkins County.
“They shrunk the project to utilize the available funds,” Bailey said. “What Kingsport hoped to do was take the million dollars they thought was coming from Rural Development and do the full project. But, there was no other choice. It was either go with a smaller project or have no project at all.
“I told the people on Beech Creek this was the only option we had.”
Unlike the Stanley Valley community which received water service from Rogersville in the early 2000s, there were no contaminated wells in the Beech Creek community.
The problem with Beech Creek’s wells is supply. When a draught hits and the water table shrinks, some of the residential wells go dry.
On a positive note, by extending a water line into Beech Creek, that opens the door for future expansions if funding becomes available again.
“That was why we wanted to see this project go through, albeit an abbreviated version, because at least it is getting water to some of the people in Beech Creek,” Bailey said. “This grant will have to be used before we apply for another one, and a ‘needs assessment’ will have to be completed, but at some point in the future we’d like to seek funds to push Kingsport water on further into Beech Creek.”