published Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Bradley County's Whirlpool road project back on track

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. — The Bradley County Commission has agreed to a funding deal proposed by the Cleveland City Council that will launch a delayed road improvement project linked to the Whirlpool relocation to Benton Pike.

Tuesday morning, commissioners voted 10-3 to accept city help in paying for rights-of-way acquisitions and improvements for segments of Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue.

While the county still will have to pay an estimated $1 million as its share of local costs for the work, the agreement allows the county to pay the city back in four years instead of funding the debt up front.

In return, Bradley County will not require Cleveland to pay up to $40,000 for existing sewer line service to areas adjoining Durkee and Minnis roads, should the city annex them.

Commissioner Ed Elkins opposed waiving the sewer line reimbursement, which was part of a 2009 agreement to provide service to Park View Elementary School. Chairman Louie Alford and Commissioner Mel Griffith joined Elkins as the only votes against the agreement.

“This has been a one-sided compromise,” said Commissioner Jeff Yarber, who said he felt “torn” on the matter.

“In their [Whirlpool officials’] mind, this community guaranteed them they would do this road project,” Commissioner Jeff Morelock said. “I just hate to see $40,000 slow this project down.”

The entire project requires $2 million in local funding, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates. Bradley County will pay all costs for county roads and split expenses 50/50 with Cleveland for road portions under city jurisdiction.

With city portions now limited to Benton Pike, that means that Cleveland will pay $336,000 and the county $1.6 million to launch the road improvements.

However, city annexation plans are in the works for Durkee Road to U.S. Highway 64 and a proposed new intersection between Michigan Avenue and Benton Pike. These annexations would reduce the county’s share of the work to about $1 million.

The road improvements project was put on hold in the fall as county leaders grappled with funding and the division of expenses. Several commissioners have said the county and city would split the costs evenly, just as they did for the $1.8 million in infrastructure costs for the new Whirlpool site.

“I hope in the future on something like this we’ve got a written contract,” Morelock said.

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

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