Senator Blackburn visits the county and attends a panel discussion on technology issues

Erwin Record Photo by Richard Rourk US Senator Marsha Blackburn shakes hands with Erwin Alderman Michael Baker during a panel discussion on Friday October 22 at Unicoi. Behind the Senator, from left to right, are Adam Copas, Unicoi County EMS Director, Jimmy Erwin, Unicoi County EMA Director, and Debbie Tittle, Unicoi County Deeds Register.

By Richard Rourk

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn visited Unicoi County early in the morning on Friday October 22 to discuss a number of issues facing the county.

Blackburn met with representatives from the three county municipalities of Unicoi in Jones and Church Farms in Unicoi with a focus on technology.

“High speed internet access is vital for a community,” said Blackburn. “High speed internet is vital for everything from educational tools to telehealth. “

Blackburn explained that she hopes to pass a bill allowing hospitals to be reimbursed for telehealth visits before the pandemic.

“It’s hard for people in rural areas to take a day off and go to hospital or emergency care,” Blackburn said.

During the roundtable visit, Blackburn praised local leaders and the work of Erwin Utilities and French Broad Electric Company in providing high speed high speed internet access throughout Unicoi County.

“So when the current projects are completed, Unicoi County will have 95% broadband coverage,” said Blackburn.

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely explained that current laws prohibit Erwin Utilities and the county from serving the remaining 5% because they report to different providers. Evely explained that Erwin Utilities and the Mayor’s Office are still working to provide broadband to these residents.

Blackburn praised local leaders for the way they handled federal relief funds during the pandemic.

“You have done an incredible job meeting the needs with the funding you have received,” said Blackburn. “There are also a lot of grants, so make sure you use all the resources, but you do very well with the grants.”

One grant the county has secured is a federal grant of $ 50,000 to upgrade solid waste management equipment.

“We received a grant to replace equipment at two of our nearby sites,” said Evely. “This upgrade will bring us into the 21st century with our nearby locations. “

Blackburn also told guests she intends to oppose the Biden administration’s spending bill.

“We have to stop this increase in government spending and the increase in taxes,” Blackburn said. “These are policies that get people fired from their jobs; then you are going to see inflation rise higher.

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