Harriman Utility Board and TVA were founded on a mission to serve — through reliable and affordable energy, a safe and protected environment and thriving economic development.
Known for the beautiful Victorian-era architecture gracing its Cornstalk Heights Historical Homes district, the city of Harriman sits along the Emory River in East Tennessee. Harriman Utility Board (HUB) has served residential and industrial customers in the area since 1939.
In partnership with the City of Harriman, HUB regularly sponsors, participates in, and contributes to recurring local activities and events in their role as a “HUB” of the community. Each year, on Labor Day, the town celebrates “Hooray for Harriman,” with HUB as a centerpiece, sharing fun and games, and giveaways from TVA, as well as showcasing their services. Later, in the fall, HUB participates in organizing the city-wide “Trunk or Treat,” providing treats for area children, family-centered entertainment, and food.
Helping customers in need is part of HUB’s mission to enhance the community through exceptional service. As part of this mission, HUB participated in the TVA Community Cares Fund during the pandemic. TVA provided a $10,000 matching grant, which HUB contributed to supplement its “Warming the Hearts” program. This program helps struggling customers to pay their utility bills.
Candace Vannasdale, General Manager of HUB, says HUB also enjoys participating in the TVA Second Harvest Food Bank. A team of HUB employees served a few hundred families during a drive-through food bank at Midtown Elementary School in July 2020, and again in the spring of 2021 at Kellytown Baptist Church. Vannasdale says, “I appreciate that TVA includes local power companies in these food drives. It’s such a great opportunity to serve our community.”
HUB is also proud to participate in TVA EnergyRight’s Home Uplift Program, which provides weatherization services to income-qualified customers in the service area. These energy upgrades help to make homes more energy-efficient, safe and comfortable for residents.
HUB decided to take a unique approach to selecting participants for the program by entering qualified names in a drawing. Joshua Gillespie, Director of Communications, says, “We were concerned about just picking the first names on a list.” Announcements about the raffle were made on social and print media. Interested customers came to the HUB office to fill out applications and received raffle tickets. The HUB team then held a Facebook Live event for the raffle ticket drawing.
So far, three HUB customers have participated in the Home Uplift program. Gillespie says the program brought much-needed assistance to the participants, “One recipient had lost her husband. She was living on a fixed income and struggling to make her utility bill payments.” Another recipient had a dire need for assistance. “She needed a furnace; she was using space heaters. Not only did the upgrades make her home more comfortable, but it helped her utility bill tremendously.”
Besides keeping utility bills as affordable as possible, making sure the power stays on is a top priority for HUB. Heath Lewis, Manager of Electric for HUB, says HUB recently had a situation that could have left about 9,000 customers—that’s 80 percent of HUB customers—without power. A large 69-kilovolt (kV) structure needed to be replaced and HUB didn’t have the necessary equipment to do the job. Lewis says, “TVA brought in their own bucket trucks, line trucks and crews. It was a huge help for us. Anytime we call, TVA helps.”
Many who reside in the HUB service area will remember the December 2008 incident that occurred at the Kingston Fossil Plant. For those who aren’t familiar with the event, a dike breach at a coal ash storage pond resulted in about 20 million cubic yards of coal ash slurry spilling into the Emory River.
The accident devastated many homes, toppled power lines, and led to a multi-year clean-up effort. Vannasdale says, “It was a tough time, but the community emerged together stronger. The plant has provided excellent paying jobs for decades, despite what happened.”
Although the spill and its aftermath were difficult for the community, there have been positive outcomes, including innovation in industrial accident cleanup and a major wetlands revitalization effort in the area. Vannasdale says, “TVA spared no expense to fix the problem and today the area is a beautiful park.”
As part of the restoration and revitalization efforts, during the past decade, the site has been converted to a 240-acre capped landfill, Roane County’s Swan Pond Recreation Area and Lakeshore Park, that supports both area wildlife and recreation.