ONEIDA, Tenn. (WVLT) – More than $1 million in federal loans and a grant is headed to the East Tennessee county with the highest unemployment in the state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Tuesday that a Rural Development low-interest infrastructure loan of $985,000 and grant of $375,000 have been awarded to Oneida Water and Waste Water.
Utility officials expect to spend the money upgrading older water meters with modern equipment so they can be monitored remotely. According to Oneida Mayor Jack Lay, the improvements will help the city utility workers catch leaks in the system a lot sooner and reduce the cost of manually reading meters.
“Safe, reliable drinking water is vital to the future of every healthy community," said USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode in a release. “Making these infrastructure investments puts people to work now and it lays the foundation for sustainable growth in the Oneida area through the next generation."
They’ll also build a solar-powered aeration device to improve water quality across the utility district.
“Putting people to work and meeting key infrastructure needs in Scott County are critically important," said U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis. "I am glad to see this needed investment that promotes efficiency and will result in cost savings for customers coming to the rural Fourth Congressional District."
Scott County has the highest unemployment rate in Tennessee, posting 19.8 percent unemployment in August. The statewide unemployment rate was 9.6 percent.
The grant and loans are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Davis was the only member of congress representing East Tennessee who voted for the so-called “stimulus package.”