(Tennessee Municipal League press release) Through improving municipal finances and tenaciously, seeking state and federal grants officials with the city of Rockwood have undertaken several major projects to improve the health, safety, efficiency, and quality of life for its citizens.
In honor of the cooperative efforts of city officials to reduce blight, increase energy efficiency, improve city services, and enhance local recreation opportunities, the Tennessee Municipal League is pleased to present Rockwood with an award for Small City Progress.
City staff working in tandem with the mayor and city council have worked tirelessly to improve city finances, housing, parks and recreation, and energy efficiency. Rockwood has more than quadrupled its general fund since 2012 and has had two perfect financial audits in that same period.
Additionally, Rockwood has received more than $2.5 million in grants with an overall average match of 15 percent. These grants have allowed for the construction of a comfort station, trails, greenways, congestion mitigation and air-quality projects, energy efficiency, safe routes to school sidewalks and repairs, a bridge replacement, and road improvements.
HOME and CDBG Grant Funds have been used to improve or replace at least 12 homes. Other funds have been used to demolish blighted properties and improve Rockwood’s housing stock. In less than four years, more than 100 blighted or condemned properties have been eliminated, providing new space for redevelopment. The removal of these properties also reduced safety risks and hazards including rodents, insects, nuisance wildlife, crime, and other concerns. New houses have also been constructed on several empty lots, returning the properties to the tax rolls.
The city has also entered into a $3.2-million energy performance contract with Trane to provide more energy efficient infrastructure for the city. The project will convert more than 800 street lights and all municipal interior lights to LED bulbs. Additionally, HVAC systems will be replaced in most municipal buildings with new weatherized roofs being installed at the city hall, library, community center, and fire and police complex. The energy savings resulting from the project will allow the city to stay within its same debt structure without tax increases.
Rockwood has also utilized grants and other funds to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus and a pumper truck for the fire department, construction of a new fire station, new police vehicles, correcting road and drainage issues, new public works and parks and recreation equipment, as well as improvements at the municipal airport. A new ladder truck, a major paving project, and commercial development of the city’s lakefront are all on Rockwood’s agenda moving forward.
Each year the Tennessee Municipal League honors cities throughout the state for overall excellence, improvement, specific outstanding programs, or department accomplishments. Other award winners for 2018 include Dunlap, for Excellence in Green Leadership; Gatlinburg, for Excellence in Police Services; Jonesborough, Excellence in Community Planning and Development; Kingsport, for Excellence in Governance; Knoxville, for Excellence in Public Works; Martin, for Excellence in Technology and Economic Development; Murfreesboro, for Excellence in Fire Services; and Unicoi for Excellence in Entrepreneurial Leadership.