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Homes for the holidays: Flood victims get new houses

Washington County has surpassed its goal of building five homes to replace ones destroyed during the August flash floods before a self-imposed Christmas deadline.
“Six have been completed, and three have certificates of occupancy,” said coordinator Walter Crouch, president and CEO of Appalachia Service Project.
Five of the houses are on Dry Creek Road, with the sixth built on nearby Cherokee Road.
“We could have two more on Dry Creek Road if inspected by New Year’s, for a total of eight houses completed in the first wave,” Crouch said.
During the Oct. 23 announcement of the first project of the “New Build Washington County” campaign — Doug Wilson’s home on Dry Creek Road — Crouch challenged the crowd to finish five houses in 63 days.
Four weeks later, Wilson’s home was complete and six more were under roof.
Volunteers willing to commit their time are responsible for the success, according to Crouch. “We had a man from Greeneville who was here for three weeks putting down laminate flooring,” he said. “Other groups from Virginia and Georgia came in and stayed quite a while.”
Footers were put in last week for the build on Sinking Creek Road, which Crouch said is the first within Johnson City limits. “The walls and rafters were built by students at Science Hill High School,” he said.
The next wave of up to seven builds will begin in February. “The Iowa State group is coming back with more people, and we would like to have five sets of footers and walls up and ready for them,” Crouch said.
Forty-three engineering students from the Associated General Contractors organization at Iowa State University spent their Thanksgiving break in Washington County and erected three of the houses. Before leaving, they announced plans to return during spring break with a larger group.
The last wave of builds will be completed during the summer. Crouch is planning a seven-week program that will draw approximately 400 volunteers from all over the country.
“We’re still doing case management to determine who qualifies, but we plan to complete a total of 27 houses, and possibly more,” he said.
During their Dec. 17 meeting, commissioners approved the program policies and procedures for the $300,000 Disaster Recovery for Housing Program grant received from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.
The reimbursable grant will provide emergency home repairs for residents who are at least 60 years old, or considered at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
“The grant has no impact on the county’s budget. It’s strictly flow-through money, but the commission is required to acknowledge and approve the procedures outlined in the grant,” Eldridge told commissioners.
Commissioner Joe Grandy made a motion for approval, which was seconded by Commissioner Pete Speropulos and passed unanimously.