By Paul Leach
CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bradley County commissioners are waiting to see if the city will give more money for road improvements linked to the planned Whirlpool relocation to Benton Pike before moving forward with the proposed work.
In the meantime, the county finance committee met with Tennessee Department of Transportation officials this week about the estimated $2 million in right-of-way and road upgrade costs for Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue. Commissioners questioned the agency's methodology and options to reduce the scope of the road improvements.
"The big bulk of this estimate is damages," transportation department Chief of Appraisal Frank Creasman said. He said the agency plans for worst-case scenarios regarding litigation and other costs associated with acquiring rights-of-way.
The proposed Whirlpool road improvements are unusual as they involve 59 property tracts, whereas most TDOT projects involve fewer than 10, Creasman said. That increases the potential for damages significantly, he said.
County commissioners asked if it would be possible to limit improvements to Benton Pike.
TDOT could revamp the project plans, but it would add at least another month to the timeline, project manager Scott Medlin said.
The finance committee has spent a couple of weeks wrestling with how the county will pay more than $1.6 million of the project total, which involves funding for all county road portions and splitting expenses with the city for city road segments.
Some commissioners have expressed doubt that the county can pay for the work and also fund a proposed joint venture with the city and Cleveland Utilities to develop a new industrial park in southern Bradley County.
"We've gotten ourselves in a pickle, but we just have to figure out a way to get out of it," Commissioner Jeff Morelock said. "If the city agreed to do it 50/50, we'd still be in a pickle."
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis cautioned that dropping support for the industrial park would not help the county's challenge to fund its share of Whirlpool road improvements.
"It doesn't give me any more money for this project today," Davis said.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and City Manager Janice Casteel previously had said they would present the county's request to the city council.
The Cleveland City Council meets MondayNov.28 at the Municipal Building at 2 p.m. for its work session and at 4 p.m. for its regular session.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.