The Tellico Plains City Council met on Thursday night and finalized plans on how to spend a $25,000 grant from Monroe County Economic Development but ended the night with an exciting announcement.

In January, Mayor Patrick Hawkins announced to the City Council that Monroe County Economic Development would be awarding each municipality in the county a $25,000 grant this year. Each town must submit a plan for how they would like to utilize the money to a subcommittee for approval before the funds are awarded.

“The money has to be used before July 1,” said Hawkins. “We need to figure out how we could best use the funding.”

Hawkins said one option would be to use part of the funds to offset the matching cost of the current parks grant, which had been delayed at the state level and should be started soon. That grant is an 80-20 matching grant, meaning the town is responsible for 20 percent of the cost of the new pavilion, restrooms and upgraded walking trails that will be added to the town’s playground area.

Proposal for playground upgrades

Alderwoman Raby suggested using some of the funding for upgrades and maintenance at the playground.

“We need a new covering, some edging,” she said. “We could change out some swings or other things. It would take probably $5,000, at least, to do what we need to do there. The playground is looking shabby, and I hate that because we’re going to get the new pavilion, walking trails and bathrooms.”

With a roundtable discussion of ideas, the City Council decided to table further discussion until the February meeting to give them more time to think about the best way to utilize the funds.

“Economic Development has encouraged us to use this for matching funds (in addition to other projects],” said Hawkins. “With the parks grant, we’re looking at a $40,000 project, so that would require us to match $8,000.”

With a room sitting full of interested community members, Hawkins overrode typical Robert’s Rules of Order to allow community members to present their thoughts and ideas. Among the things mentioned by community members were sidewalks to connect areas of the town to the downtown, a bicycle trail, a community swimming pool, easier river access, road striping and maintenance, and playground upgrades.

Hawkins said the Parks & Recreation Board has discussed some of the ideas already, but noted that the parks grant has put everything at a standstill.

“The grant has been open for two years, and we’re still waiting on the go ahead to start the project,” he said. “We can’t apply for new grants until that one is closed.”

In the end, the City Council decided the $25,000 grant would best be spent by using it to cover the town’s $8,000 matching part of the parks grant, allotting $5,000 for playground upgrades and maintenance, and utilizing the remaining funds for paving and street maintenance. If any money is leftover after that, the board thought it would be nice to do some minor upgrades at City Hall, like possibly adding a lounge area for people when they first come into the building.

Economic Development Director Richard Kirkland, a Tellico native, encouraged the town to get what they could out of the grant funds.

“Mr. (Bryan) Hall kicked this off, and I support it fully,” he said. “Everything comes with a cost, and you all sometimes don’t have the tax revenue to pay for it. We’re going to work really hard for Tellico, along with the rest of our county.”

Kirkland said there are a lot of good things happening right now for Monroe County.

“I can’t disclose a lot right now, but we’re so close to a lot of things,” he said.

While some community members mentioned limited river access earlier in the meeting, before the closure of the meeting, Hawkins said he was excited to introduce Brandi Saucier. Saucier has purchased the 20-acre David “Davey” Thomas property along the river, formerly the KOA Campground.

“I’m extremely excited about this property,” said Saucier, who is from Louisiana. “I fell in love with Tellico. I’m not a big investor. This is my first time ever doing anything like this, but I’m very excited about working with Tellico and bringing business, people, families and fun to this area.”

“I do have river access,” she joked. “I would love to do a tubing thing, camping thing, where families and kids come and stay here. Something that transcends generations. Something that’s welcomed and looked forward to. Right now, I have land and a lot of vision. My mind is full of ideas and I’m getting sketchpads and all those things going.”

Saucier said she would like to hold festivals on the property, in addition to possibly converting parts of the property into a campground or a place where people could come and stay for a month at a time, or longer.

“Steady bodies,” she said. “Then they get their families to visit. I want to make it about Tellico and its history. In the meantime, I want to do some stuff to get it on the map. I’m in the process of getting the utilities in place and excited to get started.”

“We’re excited too,” said Alderwoman Sherri Raby.

See more from the Tellico Plains City Council meeting in related stories inside today’s edition.

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