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Happy Birthday McKenzie!McKenzie had a banner year in 2019, as we celebrated our 150th birthday! A year of jubilee events which included our opening kick-off at the Park Theatre, Women’s …
Happy Birthday McKenzie!
McKenzie had a banner year in 2019, as we celebrated our 150th birthday! A year of jubilee events which included our opening kick-off at the Park Theatre, Women’s Suffrage Luncheon, fall historic and cemetery tours, historic plaques in the downtown, photography contests, and a grand birthday cake with our founder, “James Monroe McKenzie” himself as the grand marshal of our Big Jingle Christmas Parade. There is one last community project that will provide a keepsake of our sesquicentennial.
To memorialize our 150th Birthday, we are asking present and former McKenzians, (however, once a McKenzian, always a McKenzian) to submit essays with the theme, “I Remember When…” The essays can be on any subject involving living and growing up in McKenzie. A few examples might include: going to town on Saturday nights, meeting the passenger trains, the twin pools, sports, education, teachers, Bethel College, neighborhoods, businesses, infrastructure, friends, family, churches, weather (the snows when the schools closed for weeks at a time), automobiles, restaurants, entertainment, holidays, etc. Be sure to check the McKenzie Banner and the City of McKenzie Facebook page for more information in the coming weeks as work on this project begins.
LED Lighting and Citywide Wi-Fi
McKenzie joins the ranks of a “Smart City” with LED lights and citywide Wi-Fi
McKenzie has come a long way since 1899, when the city replaced the gasoline street lamps with kerosene lamps purchased at a cost of 27 cents each and required a lamplighter, Charlie Manley, to light the lamps each night and extinguish them between 10:00 p.m. and midnight.
In 2019, McKenzie contracted with Trane to replace all of the street lights with LED lighting fixtures, in addition to adding Wi-Fi nodes which will be installed in March. McKenzie is the first city in Tennessee to incorporate Wi-Fi on street lights for the entire city. The city received a $75,000 grant to install Wi-Fi in the downtown area. The LED lighting is still being installed, and the installers are still working through a few glitches throughout the city. In December, McKenzie was recognized at the state TREEDC (Tennessee Renewable Energy and Economic Development Council) conference in Cookeville for its “Smart City” initiatives along with Chattanooga and Franklin. We are already seeing the cost savings of this project as our last street light bill was decreased over 75 percent.
The project also included replacing aging water meters with new automated meters. This project is about 90% complete and still undergoing changes. It is possible your water bill for December may appear higher than usual because it will have eight additional days on the billing cycle. Please bear with us as we make this transition. The additional days will adjust as the meters are read on the regularly scheduled date.
McKenzie’s Wastewater Collection System
In 2007, McKenzie received a Commissioner’s Order because of the aging wastewater collection system infrastructure. Since then, we have been consistently working to update our system. The city has received over $3.5 million in Community Development Block Grants, a State Revolving Loan and grant for $1.87 million and a USDA Rural Development loan and grant for $1,857,000. This year we were also awarded an additional CDBG grant for $525,000. The funds have been used to update the wastewater treatment plant in addition to modernizing and replacing the collection system which includes underground piping under the streets and yards, man holes, sewer mains and lift stations. As we continue the project, you may see engineers using cameras and smoke testing to identify the areas which need rehabilitating.
When water cuts are made in the streets, one of the biggest annoyances we all notice are the potholes that are created. We have a company that will be repairing these in the next few months, however, the gravel in the holes has to settle and more gravel has to be added as it settles. Please bear with us through this process and remember to drive slowly over the potholes to avoid damage to your tires.
Tennessee State Songwriters Contest
Last summer, we were very excited to have Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell in McKenzie to present us with the West Tennessee Tourism Award. While in McKenzie, he toured our city including the renovated Park Theatre and train depot. He was impressed by the renovations and encouraged us to enter the venue competition for the Tennessee State Songwriters Contest. As a result, the Park Theatre was chosen to be one of the venues for the official qualifying round in the state. Songwriters can apply to perform on Eventbrite, and sign-up is free, however, there are only a few spots remaining. Two winners and two alternates will be chosen and will advance to compete in one of six locations throughout Tennessee. Those six winners will perform at the historic Bluebird Café in Nashville. Be sure to mark your calendars for Thursday, February 6, 2020, to see and hear some of the best songwriting talent in the state showcased at the Park Theatre.
Locates to McKenzie
The booming economy throughout our country is benefitting McKenzie and all of our rural areas. We are delighted Pottery Direct from the Netherlands is opening its first U.S. plant in McKenzie. The hiring process has already begun and they hope to begin running a continuous shift by late summer when all the equipment arrives. The plant will begin with one line, however, the owners plan to expand and add more lines. The workforce for the line will be hired in late spring or early summer to train before the plant officially begins operation. Pottery Direct is located on Rochelle Road and is worth the drive out there if you have not seen the new building. The plant will use the ball clay from Henry and Weakley counties, as this is some of the very finest clay in the world for pottery. Pottery Direct makes vases for Kroger and other stores.
The Railyard Workplace
The McKenzie Industrial Board recently purchased 9 Broadway from Overflow Church, and is beginning work to transform the building into “The Railyard Workplace” through a state place-making grant. The building will be a co-working entrepreneur meeting space with high speed Wi-Fi, printers, office equipment and coffee bar. Entrepreneurs needing office space can pay dues to use the workplace 24/7. The second floor will house a 1000 sq. ft. studio apartment, and up to three private offices. Both Dyersburg’s “The Mill” and the “CO” in Jackson, have similar workspaces which attract budding entrepreneurs to the community to develop their businesses.
McKenzie received the State Tourism Grant earlier this year for renovation of the Park Theatre marque. The city is in the process of getting bids from companies that have the capability to renovate the sign, redo the lighting, and message boards. We are hoping to finish the project in the next few months.
There are two major sidewalk grants the city has received, however, progress to begin the actual construction is always slow. The Multi-Modal Grant for $990,000 (the city’s share is 5%) will extend along Cedar from MBC to Highland Drive. We are in the process of getting easements from the property owners and completing the environmental requirements from Native American Indian tribes. We hope to be able to bid-out the construction in the next few months. We recently received a Transportation Alternative grant for $354,620.00 for South Main Street. This will consist of a sidewalk that will extend from Maple Street down to E.W. James. It will also have a culvert that is intended to alleviate flooding in this area.
Parks and Recreation Grant
A Local Parks and Recreation Program Grant is allowing us to update some of our playground equipment in Mulberry Park and City Park. In addition, the plans are to install a Harmony Park in greenspace by the Splash Pad. This will consist of outdoor “no wrong notes” sculptural musical instruments which will create a public music space shared by the entire community. The city’s share of this grant is paid for through funds we received from Tennessee State Water Resources for an educational project at the Splash Pad.
Happy New Year!
As we step into the new year, we thank God for 2019 and the many blessings He showered upon our city. Let us remember the challenges we face as individuals and as a community are opportunities which help us move forward. Remember that no person, no life, no city, and no year is perfect, and we must learn to embrace the good along with the bad. Let us start 2020, with gratitude and the resolution to begin each day with a positive mindset. On behalf of our Council and everyone at the City of McKenzie, we are grateful for each of you, and we wish all of you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.