published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Bradley County Commission defers approval of industrial park venture

By Paul Leach, Correspondent

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Bradley County Commission balked Monday at offering official support to a proposed joint industrial development venture with Cleveland.

In its regular voting session Monday morning, the commission instead voted 8-6 to approve a motion made by Commissioner Mel Griffith to give the finance committee a chance to fully review the county's potential commitment first.

Under the current proposal, the county and city would each pay $3 million to get the Spring Branch Business/Industrial Park off the ground. The startup price tag includes buying 343 acres near Interstate 75 in southern Bradley County as well as assorted environmental, geological and topographical studies, according to economic development officials.

"We need to find the funds first," said Griffith.

The original motion, offered by Commissioner Robert Rominger, called for the commission to support the Spring Branch purchase contingent upon agreements among the finance committee, the county industrial development board, Cleveland Utilities and the city of Cleveland.

Rominger said Griffith's motion was "just a delaying tactic."

He also said that voting for Griffith's motion equated to not showing support for the Spring Branch project.

A number of commissioners questioned the need for Griffith's motion since the finance committee would have to allocate and approve funding measures either way.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber defended Griffith's motion, saying he would love to support the joint industrial development proposal but he has a lot of questions and does not want the discussion stifled.

"All that is being asked today is that we support this project," Commissioner Bill Winters said.

The county's industrial development partners deserve some concrete numbers, not a "feel-good measure," said Commissioner J. Adam Lowe.

County Mayor Gary D. Davis said "the dollars aren't there today" when asked by commissioners if funding for the joint project were readily available.

In the meantime, Cleveland Utilities may pitch in $2 million to the Spring Branch project. The Cleveland Utilities Board has scheduled a special meeting today at noon to review the issue, according to Cleveland Utilities general manager Tom Wheeler.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland, Tenn. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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