Jan Runions Staff Writer
January 9, 2014
The city with the largest population inside Claiborne County reaches its 21st birthday this year, making it a full-fledged adult beside its older brothers and sisters.
Settled during the 19th century, Harrogate, Tenn. did not become incorporated until 1993 when local families decided it was time to officially claim a separate identity.
Measuring some six and one-half square miles in circumference, the city boasts nearly 4,400 residents.
Evident from past newspaper articles and early Harrogate Council minutes, the first Board of Mayor and Aldermen immediately began a push towards providing adequate sewage disposal.
Made up of the Honorable Mayor Dr. George Day, Bill Fultz, Harold Higdon, Paul Lundy and Stewart Fultz, the first council made it a top priority to search out sewage grants.
Meanwhile, discussion brewed about possibly linking arms with nearby Cumberland Gap to utilize its high-capacity sewage treatment facility. But, by October 1995, it appeared unlikely the project would happen.
Harrogate struggled during its infancy to earn sewer grants because the city did not possess major industry.
Plans to open a 20-acre DeRoyal manufacturing plant along the incorporated stretch of U.S. 25E were later axed by the company due likely to the lack of an adequate waste disposal system.
Eventually, city government partnered with the Claiborne Utility District to build a pump station in the Patterson Crossroads area. Wastewater was pumped through the force main lines to the Tazewell, Tenn. sewage plant.
The city picked up the tab for a second pump station installed in the Ellen Myers area.
A survey in early 1998 showing a 62 percent failure rate for residential septic tanks in the Washington Avenue area proved a boon for city government. Harrogate was finally able to secure a $450,000 grant allowing the sewer project to begin in earnest, later that same year.
City Recorder Rose Kiser estimates there are about 450 customers currently hooked to the sewer system, mainly along the business district and down Londonderry Road to the Cumberland Gap High School area.
It is likely the sewer project will continue for some time. There are approximately 1,500 residential homes inside the city limits.
It didn’t take long for the new city to draw controversy in the form of Sunday beer sales.
The first council meeting netted discussion of estimated revenues that could total some $72,000 in city beer and sales taxes.
In August, 1993, the board adopted an ordinance allowing a 12 hour window of opportunity for city residents to purchase beer on Sundays. The outcry was felt by the next meeting, when nearly 100 disgruntled residents showed up to complain.
The council decided to temporarily pull the ordinance to allow area churches to raise the funds to hold a referendum. Meanwhile, state officials informed the city it was illegal to schedule an election for beer sales.
By September, the contentious debate was quickly dropped when Oasis Substation owners Wally and Patty Jones (the only beer store operators inside the city limits) made it known they were not interested in selling beer on Sunday.
The newly incorporated city struggled in its quest for its first traffic lights. A TDOT feasibility study, completed in July 1990, prompted officials to contract with an engineering firm in late 1993 to design the layout of the lights at the intersection of U.S. 25E and TN 63.
However, no bidders forced the project into a stall in November of 1995.
The project picked up steam again in October of 1996, and digging commenced on the setting of the light poles.
Within the first year of incorporation, the city managed to install an Ambulance Substation inside the Arthur/Shawanee Utility District building and create the Harrogate Historical Museum temporarily based on the LMU campus.
Harrogate City Park was established in 1994 via a ten acre lease agreement from LMU.
Today, Harrogate boasts a thriving business district while maintaining a small town outlook.
City government continues to maintain solid revenues while paying its bills on time, according to city recorder Rose Kiser. Projects on the back burner are pursued through grants in order to keep a healthy, balanced city budget.
Reach Jan Runions at email@example.com or 423-626-3222.