By Heather Mullinix
The city of Crab Orchard is working on several projects that will increase safety and community in the town, including transforming the former Crab Orchard Clinic into a community center and substation for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department.
“Once we decided what we wanted to be as a city, we started working on those goals,” said Joe Sherrill.
Mayor Emmett Sherrill began trying to secure a lease for the clinic building several years ago, and secured a two-year lease for the building that will house space for sheriff’s deputies, community meetings, area organizations and a growing youth program.
“We hope the lease will go beyond that,” Emmett Sherrill. “It will be a community building for whatever activities we have going on.”
In addition to a substation for the Sheriff’s Department, Emmett Sherrill hopes the department can expand its community programs, such as neighborhood watch and a kids program, to the Crab Orchard community.
There are also plans to offer a library with resources such as job searching and other resources.
This isn’t the first community project in Crab Orchard. The community came together last year to fix up its community park.
“When we did that, a lot of the kids got involved,” said Joe Sherrill. “It became obvious they wanted to be involved and they participated well.”
That project led to a youth program, with Joe Sherrill and others acting as mentors for older teens. They provided transportation to Crossville to visit the National Guard Armory, the Art Circle Library and other locations on a regular basis. They focused on skills and information the teens would need as they grew up, such as obtaining a photo ID and driver’s license and understanding their choices for continuing their education or entering the workforce.
“They didn’t have a lot to be involved in,” Joe Sherrill said. “You’ve got to get out of Crab Orchard to grow, and if you want to come back, great. A lot of us did that.”
With the new community center, that program will grow, with people volunteering their time two afternoons a week with programs for younger kids, as well. Plans are in the works for a summer program.
“The kids have proven they will show up,” Joe Sherrill said. “We need to give them something they can take part in.”
That includes working with the East Tennessee Human Resources Agency Workforce Investment Act, providing funding for older youth to work through the city of Crab Orchard on community projects for those who have demonstrated they will achieve an exit strategy to military service, college or a job. It provides work experience and a paycheck for youth.
Joe Sherrill said plans are also in the works for a Crab Orchard 5K race in the fall, and work will begin on that soon.
The city has also leased the former Methodist Church to the Crab Orchard Care Center, a community organization that was assisting more than 60 families with food regularly. Emmett Sherrill said the Crab Orchard Christian Church is expanding its clothing closet in the community to the former Redwine Garage.
The city has applied for a Community Development Block Grant to improve the operation of the Emergency Medical Service and fire departments. The city maintains the building and covers utilities and day-to-day expenses for the county departments. If approved, the grant would require a $33,000 match, which the Cumberland County Commission’s budget committee has agreed to fund. Determination of the grant awards won’t be known until September this year.
Emmett Sherrill also said work had been done to clean up some dilapidated, burned out structures inside the city limits.
“We got those out of the way,” he said. “We worked with the property owners and Keith Brady Construction really helped us out. The city got the property owners to split the cost of the clean-up with us.”
This year marks Crab Orchard’s 40th year as a city, and the annual Crab Orchard festival, set for July 6 with a large fireworks display capping the day of food, music and fun.
Long-term goals include increasing the retail opportunities in Crab Orchard. There are steps in that direction with a new restaurant planning to open in the old Kemmer Store on Hwy. 70 E.
To learn more about projects of the city of Crab Orchard, visit craborchardtn.com.