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Federal wetland permit not yet approved for vacant Phipps Bend industrial location
  • Updated

The Army Corp of Engineering won’t allow grading to take place at one of East Tennessee’s biggest and most desirable prospective industrial sites until the Hawkins County Industrial Board has “a bird in hand”.

In other words, when company agrees to build a factory on 100 acres of flat vacant land at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park, the ACOE will consider approval of permit to disturb wetlands on the property.

Jason Snapp from the engineering firm of Mattern and Craig told the IDB at its May meeting that preliminary site preparation plans have been completed for the 100-acre vacant industrial site known as Lot 17. The site is located adjacent cooling tower from the nuclear power plant project that was started, and then abandoned at Phipps Bend over 40 years ago.

A drainage ditch for the cooling tower cuts through Lot 17, and over the past 40 years has become a wetland. As a result, a federal permit is required before the IDB can fill in the ditch and grade the property.

Snapp reported to the IDB that plans have been completed for relocation of a sewer line that runs through the middle of the property, as well as removal of the drainage ditch, grading, extending rail service to the property, and the required due diligence reports.

“All of the plans will still be a good marketing tool for the IDB to take to somebody and say, we’ve done all the up-front work,” Snapp noted. “(They can tell prospects) here’s the size pad we can get out of Lot 17, although we may not be able to grade this fall or in the spring like we initially thought.

“A great tool for marketing”

Snapp said he recently met with Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the ACOE to discuss potential wetland disturbances that would be created by filling in the old cooling towner drainage ditch that runs through the property.

Snapp said TDEC reacted favorably toward issuing the work permit, but the ACOE reported that it will not issue speculative permits to disturb the wetlands which have grown up in that ditch over the past 40 years.

According to Snapp, the ACOE said that once the IDB “gets a bird in hand” in the from of a solid industrial prospect for that property, the board can use its completed plans to start the permit process instantly.

“That permit process is about a six month process, minimum, to be able to get the Corp to sign off on it,” Snapp said. “You can take it to whoever wants to locate at Lot 17 and say, we’ve got this in hand. You give us the go-ahead, and here’s the documents that we can submit to the Corp to get your permit going. It basically shrinks the timeline to allow them to move dirt. I still think it’s a great tool for marketing. I hate that we won’t be able to grade this fall. But, I just flat out asked (the ACOE), will you issue a speculative permit, and they said no to that.”

Snapp added, “Essentially now we can go to a prospective business and say, we know for a fact you can get rail access because we have approval on those plans. We know for a fact you can get a 75-80 acre pad. We know for a fact that you can disturb these wetlands and streams to make this happen. We know for a fact that you can get the sewer line out of your way.”

IDB chairman Larry Elkins noted that grading is a fairly minor issue because Lot 17 is already one of the most level prospective industrial sites in East Tennessee.

A new railroad track

Snapp said he submitted a 60 percent completed set of plans for Norfolk Southern Railroad to review on the proposal to run a line to Lot 17. NSR said it want the ability to add additional rail spurs to that line in the future.

That requires a heavier rail section which means existing rail within the park would have to be replaced. Snapp said they would have to take the existing lines out and rebuild it from the sub-grade up.

“The section that goes through there now is not what they cal the ‘Lead Track’ typical section,” Snapp said. “It’s an ‘Industry Track’ typical section which is a smaller section.”

The ballast, sub-ballast, tile and the track would all be replaced. That work would begin around the location of Homeland Vinyl through the park to Lot 17, which would be the end of the line.

Water line and storage tank

Mattern and Craig is also working on plans for a water storage tank rehabilitation at Phipps Bend, as well as Phipps Bend’s water line upgrades throughout the park. Those line upgrades involve installing shut-off valves and bypasses at each plant so that one leak doesn’t impact all plants — as happened a few years ago.

Still needed before that project ca move forward is right-away verification from Cooper Standard, which Snapp said is imminent.

Snapp said he is also awaiting technical spec approval from Rural Development, which Snapp described as a formality.

He said those projects could be advertised for bids as early as this summer, with work to take place in the fall.

Farmers Serving Farmers: Dodson Creek Farm Supply opened June 6

Dodson Creek Farm Supply officially opened on June 6. The store is a product of a partnership of two families; lifelong Hawkins Countians Eric and Elizabeth Jones and Florida transplants Roger and Adrienne Burns.

They bought the property last year and had been selling feed there for several months before deciding to turn it into a full farm supply store.

The Dodson Creek Farm Supply is located at 523 Kite Road near the Persia community. The building is the former Dodson Creek School.

The property has been involved in local agriculture for several years. According to Eric, Joey Manes bought the property from the county after the school closed. He ran Circle J Ag Supply there beginning in the 1990s. Eric and Roger purchased the property from Manes.

Eric says “We just kind of fell into the business.” He is a lifelong farmer and operates Jones Farms. Elizabeth adds “Eric leased his first farm when he was nine.” Elizabeth McMillen Jones grew up in Rogersville, Eric grew up in Tarpine Valley. Jones Farms is known for selling quality meat products including sausage, steaks, ground beef and half or whole beef.

Roger and Adrienne have been in the Rogersville are for only about two years. They came here from Florida. Roger says that he grew up “in the middle of nowhere” on a Florida cattle ranch and wanted move to a quieter, less-hurried area. They found what they were looking for in Tarpine Valley near the Jones’ farm. Roger likes the lifestyle that Hawkins County provides. He says “when we first came here, we lived in a camper for a while. We had three Thanksgiving invites.” He likes that people here aren’t in a hurry… “they talk in checkout lines.” Roger wanted to invest in something local, so when the opportunity came to buy the former school building, he and Eric went into business.

The operation began with selling feed to other local farmers. Eric remembers “We had our first order of feed delivered on a Thursday and had to reorder on Monday.” The business is now a dealer for Tucker Milling, an Alabama feed manufacturer. Tucker Milling products have sold well.

Elizabeth says that “The Tucker Milling Products are really fresh.” Eric says the feed is only about three days old when they get it. Among the many kinds of feed available are the popular Joy and Diamond dog foods. Eric says “We are the only Tucker Milling dealer in the area.” Eric delivers feed to out-of-town customers including some in Morristown and Johnson City.

In addition to all kinds of animal feed, Dodson Creek Farm Supply has electric fence supplies, barb wire, assorted hardware, bolts, nails, chicken wire and batteries. Customers can buy a ton of feed or a single bag. They have fresh eggs from local farmers and homemade goat-milk soap.

Both families are dedicated to the business. Elizabeth or Adrienne can be found at the register where young Erica Jones also helps out. Addison Jones even helps load the bags of feed. Addison Burns and Roger Burns III help out wherever needed.

Elizabeth says “We hope to offer small engine repair” and Eric adds “We would like to have local farmers set up and sell produce here.” Eric has been a farmer his entire life, and he understands needs of our Hawkins County farmers.

The contact information for Dodson Creek Farm Supply is:

Phone: (423) 500-4923

Email: Dodsoncreekfarm


Holston Army Ammunition Plant celebrates 80th anniversary, buries time capsule
  • Updated

The Holston Army Ammunition Plant celebrated 80 years of and producing explosives in support of the U.S. Army and the warfighter on June 6.

The HSAAP marked the occasion with an outdoor ceremony to include the burial of a time capsule that contains items reflecting the last 80 years of fulfilling the Holston ordnance mission.

Built in 1942, HSAAP was operational in less than two years – an achievement that ultimately changed the landscape of the entire world during wartime.

Jeff Worley, deputy commander, HSAAP, narrated the ceremony and provided the description of the time capsule used to highlight the event.

“This time capsule contains historical reports, engineering designing tools, an old wooden water line, a hydrometer used to check the density of the solvent in the manufacturing process of RDX, a complete list of both the government staff members and BAE employees, information on the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects it had on the day-to-day operations of Holston, along with various other items that represents each department,” said Worley. “It also contains letters to the future leaders of Holston from the current commander, Lt. Col. Carpenter, JMC Command Sgt. Maj. Petra Casarez and Mr. Jeff Russell, general manager, BAE Systems, Inc. The time capsule will be opened in 2042 in celebration of the 100th anniversary, and the intent of this time capsule is to capture some of the past and present to share with the future men and women who will make up Team Holston.”

“Holston Army Ammunition Plant celebrates an important milestone this summer as 2022 marks 80 years of support to the Warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Scott Carpenter, commanding officer, HSAAP. “This site and community have served our nation for eight decades and supported every major conflict since World War II. In 1942, we had one product here at Holston and now we have the ability to produce more than 80. When we started out, Holston had 10 production lines, but through the years, working more efficiently, we’re down to two production lines, but remain fully capable to produce those 80 products.”

More than three generations of dedicated Americans have continued to run the Holston site since its beginning. Running at full capacity across 10 lines, and operated by a largely female workforce, Holston delivered a tactical advantage over the German U-boats during World War II, and soon the war was won.

“In the Army, we consider our greatest asset and number one priority to be our people, and accordingly we would like to pay special tribute to the many individuals and generations of families who have honorably served at Holston over the last 80 years,” said Carpenter. “We honor their commitment in supporting and continuing to support our Army’s ability to deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars.”

In 1999, BAE Systems became the second operating contractor of Holston under a government-owned, contractor-operated agreement. The company has been dedicated for more than two decades to ensuring mission success.

It has been stated by many that winning wars isn’t done by mistake, but by extensive planning and innovation. “Such innovations are critical to our modern warfighter and for the safety of the user; it saves lives both on and off the battlefield,” said Carpenter. “The Holston Research and Development team developed IMX-101 to replace TNT in artillery, as IMX-101 is much safer to handle and store than TNT, yet equally effective.” In fact, Time magazine named IMX-101 among “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010.” The Research and Development team continues to explore and innovate on the cutting edge of the next phase of warfare.

The day-to-day function of the Holston plant is as important as the ammunition they make. One of the most recent and notable projects was the construction of the natural-gas fire steam plant that replaced the coal-fire steam plant which served the site since 1943. The new natural-gas steam facility incorporates best available emission control technologies, which have reduced emissions of several regulated criteria pollutants. In fact, Holston recently executed a test that revealed the system is operating in full compliance and well-below permitted limits.

Holston continues to make efforts to divert waste away from open burning grounds. So far they have diverted more than 10,000 cubic yards of production waste, seven million pounds of building debris, and 45 million pounds of concrete and metal to be recycled.

“Holston provides a sense of purpose, immediacy and impact and encourages the workforce to constantly think about what comes next,” said Carpenter. “The Holston workforce has been, and will continue to be an important part of the history of our nation, and we are prepared to handle the needs of the future, both here and around the world.”

HSAAP is a subordinate installation of the Joint Munitions Command. From its headquarters at the Rock Island Arsenal, JMC operates a nationwide network of conventional ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots, and provides on-site ammunition experts to U.S. combat units wherever they are stationed or deployed. JMC’s customers are U.S. forces of all military services, other U.S. government agencies and allied nations.

Housing market is all about supply, supply, supply
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Add supply, supply, supply to the adage that real estate is all about location, location, location. Like the rest of the Tri-Cities region, Hawkins has a housing shortage.

There are not enough homes for sale to meet demand – even as higher mortgage rates have scared some buyers away from the market and shut-out others.

The reason isn’t totally the current sales increase. The bottom line is there were not enough new homes built after the Great Recession to sustain a healthy housing market. It’s a situation that can’t be quickly corrected, especially when buyers are still hyperactive.

Shorthand for a healthy market is typically described by months of inventory. Currently, Hawkins Co.’s number is less than a one-month. It simply means there wasn’t enough inventory at the end of May to last for four weeks at the current sales pace. Of course, inventory is dynamic as new listings are coming on as sold properties move to the closing table.

A healthy market with balanced conditions is typically described as five to six months of inventory. That hasn’t been the case here in the Tri-Cities since the first quarter of 2018.

New home construction in Hawkins Co peaked in 2006 when 90 permits were pulled. The number began declining as foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies increased in the days after the 2007 crash. By 2013 new permits had dropped to less than one a month. The annual total was eight that year.

Currently, there’s quite a bit of new construction in both the single-family and small apartment complex sectors. But it’s not enough to restore balanced conditions anywhere in the near term. Overall new home construction is still barely 30% of its 2009 capacity.

So far this year, there are signs of a softer sales landscape than what was seen last year when they were up almost 20%. During the first five months of the year, the sales rate had dropped to 7.2%, which is still a hot market. Ditto for prices. A person who paid the typical price in Hawkins Co. last month paid $69,450 more than they would have paid May last year.

Rents are also increasing. Currently, 11% of the county’s total residential properties are rentals.

Housing economists say it’s hard to imagine a revival in the housing market unless homes get more affordable and there are many more of them.

We’re a couple of weeks away from June’s local home sales report and the mid-year state of the market outlooks. Most local market watchers expect things to cool down even more after the summer peak in June and July.

Don Fenley is a long-time Tri-Cities journalists who now specializes in local economic news and trends. His CoreData website can be accessed at