HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Roan Mountain residents have a state-of-the-art convenience center for trash and recycling dropoff thanks to a group of Hampton High School students.

Students from Daniel Arnett’s architecture and engineering design classes were putting the finishing touches Tuesday on a new building for the convenience center off U.S. Highway 19-E. It was the last step in a process that has saved the county thousands of dollars, given the students valuable hands-on experience and even made a mark on officials at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

Hampton senior Macon Barden used a computer program to help design the building and he’s helped in the construction process. “It feels great, because any day I can drive by and say, ‘hey, I done that to help out,'” Barden said.

The project started when Carter County’s Solid Waste Director, Benny Lyons, approached Arnett in mid-2018. He needed drawings to submit a TDEC grant application for improvements to the center.

“It was very substandard,” Lyons said. “Traffic flowed in two or three directions, and in the world of trash you want traffic to flow in a continuous, one-way flow.”

That wasn’t the only problem. Dumpster heights left citizens having to toss often heavy bags above their heads — another drawback.

Arnett put his students to work. They visited the site, measured the available space and developed a new design. “With Benny’s help we drew up a more feasible path for vehicles and located the dumpsters below the vehicle area,” Arnett said.

Lyons submitted the drawings, and in March TDEC awarded $92,000, with a 20 percent match required from the county. Lyons saved county taxpayers about $10,000 by not using a professional firm — not that state officials could tell. “Some of the people in Nashville told me they didn’t even realize it wasn’t a drawing from an engineering firm,” Lyons said.

Hampton High teacher Daniel Arnett works with architecture and engineering design students who helped complete a new office for the Roan Mountain convenience center.

The students hadn’t stopped with the dumpster heights and traffic flow, though. They’d noticed how dilapidated the convenience center employee space was — it essentially amounted to a shack and nearby portable outhouse — and asked whether the group could help with that as well. The grant application included that proposal, with an additional student-completed drawing for a new small building complete with running water and a bathroom.

Lyons purchased a shell building and the students — around 20 from two different classes — took it from there with guidance from Arnett.

“I had four students that had never used a drill before, some had never pulled wire or done plumbing fixtures,” Arnett said. “This gives them real hands on experience, and they got out there in the heat and went to work. None of them stood around.”

Lyons said the building will be placed Wednesday, weather permitting.