published Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Cleveland, Tenn., approves bond funding for 3 projects

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The local portion of some key transportation projects will be funded with bond debt, the Cleveland City Council agreed this week.

On Jan. 23, the council will choose either variable or fixed-rate bonds to provide the money.

One project involves Minnis Road rights-of-way acquisitions, road improvements and utility relocation in order to serve Whirlpool's new plant. The local cost is $2 million, and the city is taking on the debt.

Bradley County officials have indicated they will pay the county portion of the debt within four years.

The City Council also took steps Monday to annex all property adjoining Benton Pike and Durkee Road as part of the project.

Councilman Bill Estes said he wanted the funding resolution to say specifically that the county's repayment will be made within four years of the local money being transferred to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

TDOT is paying half the rights-of-way and utility costs and all of the road construction costs.

"If we are going to be the bankers for the county, I would like to see that in the resolution," Estes said.

The resolution comes to a vote in two weeks, City Manager Janice Casteel said.

"Which gives us time to hear from Bradley County that, yes, they are on board," she said. "Until their commission votes, we don't know."

Council members said they were surprised to learn the issue is not on the County Commission's voting agenda next Tuesday.

The second project addresses the city's $1.7 million cost to build access roads at a future APD 40 interchange to be built by TDOT. The roads, called local interstate connectors in transportation department terminology, will provide access near exit 20 on Interstate 75 for expected industrial or commercial growth.

The $1.7 million is what the Cleveland Board of Education owes the City Council for a loan to improve Arnold Memorial Elementary School in 2007. Casteel said $175,000 also has been set aside from local sales taxes.

The school board will pay the access road debt instead.

Meanwhile, Cleveland's new $32 million Tasso airport is nearing completion.

But Lou Patten, a Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority member, told the council that $1.5 million is needed for a terminal building. The bond debt for the terminal would be repaid by the airport authority with pledges from private donors, Patten said.

"Time is of the essence now," Mayor Tom Rowland said. "The terminal needs to be built when the airport opens. We've gone too far on the airport now to back up."

The airport authority likewise needs a signal from the council to go ahead with its planning, Casteel said.

The terminal vote also will be on the Jan. 23 council agenda.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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