published Friday, November 11th, 2011

Bradley County to review funding for road projects at Whirlpool site

By Paul Leach/Correspondent
  • photo
    Construction is seen at Whirlpool's 1-million square foot manufacturing plant off of Benton Pike NE in Cleveland, Tenn. in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A number of challenges surround road improvement projects linked to the Whirlpool site relocation, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis says.

Davis told county commissioners this week that it would be very difficult for the county to pay $1.6 million for shoulder, ditch and intersection upgrades on Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue. The road project, a joint venture with Cleveland, totals $2 million in local government costs. The state will pay another $2 million.

"First of all, we want to do nothing but cooperatively move forward on this project," Davis said, but the county does not have that much money available for the proposed roadwork.

According to recent Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates, the city and county each will pay 50 percent of the $673,562 needed for improvements made on city road segments, which primarily are on Benton Pike. The county will pay another $1.3 million for improvements that occur solely on county road segments.

The Cleveland City Council passed a resolution supporting that version of the cost split in October, Davis said. However, the road improvement costs previously were divided evenly between the county and city, he said. The county mayor cited transportation department estimates for local government -- provided to the city in February -- that totaled $1.29 million. The city's portion was half that amount: $514,000.

The county mayor said that coincided with the parameters set forth in the 50/50 agreement between the city and county to fund $1.8 million in infrastructure site costs for the Whirlpool relocation.

The County Commission also resolved to apply for an industrial access highway grant through the transportation department in September 2010 as part of the joint venture with the city to retain Whirlpool.

"At that point in time, no dollars were mentioned," Davis said.

"We voted with the assumption that the city was going to go 50/50," Commissioner Mel Griffith said.

Davis offered some options to the commissioners, such as splitting all local government costs evenly with the city. Other alternatives limited improvements to Benton Pike or Benton Pike and Michigan Avenue.

"Has anyone approached the city about splitting this 50/50?" asked Commissioner Connie Wilson.

"It has been asked, and they have been pretty firm" about splitting costs for things outside the city, Davis said.

The County Commission's finance committee plans to address the issue during a special meeting Monday at 11 a.m.

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

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