Grant will help make 120 acres at Phipps Bend market-ready for industrial development

Jeff Bobo • Updated Feb 9, 2019 at 9:28 AM

SURGOINSVILLE — A $100,000 state grant announced Wednesday will help the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board make a 120 acre lot at Phipps Bend the largest market-ready industrial site in East Tennessee.

Although some site preparation is still needed, IDB Chairman Larry Elkins noted that there’s already a lot of interest in the property.

On Friday, an industrial site consultant visited the property for an unnamed client.

On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced 13 Site Development Grants statewide totaling about $5 million.

Hawkins County’s $100,000 grant will be used to conduct mandatory due diligence studies that must be completed before a sewer line can be relocated, a drainage ditch removed, and two properties combined to make the single 120 acre parcel.

The due diligence study will identify potential hindrances to development such as archaeological discoveries, endangered species or environmental issues.

When the study is completed sometime next year, the IDB will be eligible to apply for another grant for up to $1 million to relocate a Church Hill sewer line that runs through the middle of the 120 acre tract and to fill in a drainage ditch on the property that dates back to the nuclear power plant construction of the early 1980s.

Last year, international industrial site assessor KPMG gave the 120 acre area adjacent to Phipps Bend’s abandoned nuclear power plant cooling tower a positive review.

The KPMG study identified the sewer line and ditch as deficiencies, but stated, “Once developed, the site will offer a unique availability of power and acreage in the Northeast Tennessee market.”

“Obviously, we’ve got some things that need to be done down there to make that large piece of property more marketable, and with that grant we’re going to be able to do all the engineering and hopefully get another grant to do the work,” Elkins told the Times News Friday. “We’re excited about it, and TVA and the state both think that’s going to be the largest site that’s market-ready in East Tennessee. A lot of the clientele that come through on larger projects are looking for 100 acres, so we think this is going to put that piece of property in high demand.”

The IDB is also seeking grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Tennessee Valley Authority to address problems with Phipps Bend’s water system.

Those grants would cover the cost for the Surgoinsville Utility District to make repairs to its water tank at Phipps Bend, as well as to install water line shutoff valves throughout the industrial park.

The valves are needed so that if there’s a leak, it can be isolated and repaired without forcing a water service interruption to every plant in the park, which is what happened in 2018.

The overall cost for engineering and site development, the sewer line and ditch removal, and the water tank and valve corrections are projected to be around $2 million.

The only other Northeast Tennessee grant recipient announced Wednesday was Morristown’s East Tennessee Progress Center, which received $1 million for grading to prepare a one million square foot building site.

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