published Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Leaders to meet on Whirlpool road project

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.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Bradley County Commission Finance Committee will meet with city leaders Friday at 11 a.m.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County commissioners have asked to meet with Cleveland officials before beginning road improvements associated with the Whirlpool factory relocation.

The projects, which include upgrades to Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue, are part of a venture between Bradley County and Cleveland to retain Whirlpool. They will cost the county more than $1.6 million, according to recent Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates. The city's share amounts to a little more than $330,000.

Members of the County Commission Finance Committee have expressed concern over the costs as well as the county's share. Several said the expenditures would be split 50/50 with the city, just like the split in the $1.8 million infrastructure site costs.

TDOT estimates split city road improvement expenses between the city and county, while the county pays for all county road upgrades. The Cleveland City Council recently approved the plan.

"They passed this resolution, but how did they come up with that in the first place?" asked Commissioner Ed Elkins. "Is this what they would like to do? Because this is not the way it started out."

Using the TDOT estimates, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis presented a number of alternatives to the committee, including compliance with the current schedule, reducing the scope of the improvements or increasing the city's share of expenses.

Davis described an option to limit improvements to Benton Pike as "doable." Under that plan, the city and county each would pay $500,000.

The other alternatives will cost the county nearly $1 million, whether dividing the entire project evenly between the county and city or just splitting costs for upgrades to Benton Pike and Durkee Road.

The outcome of the projects could affect the county's involvement in a proposed industrial park in southern Bradley County. If the park is funded, the county, city and Cleveland Utilities each would pitch in $2 million to get it ready for development.

"I don't like to renege on my commitments, but I'm almost thinking our commitment to the industrial park in the south needs to be rethought," said Commissioner Connie Wilson, chairwoman of the Finance Committee.

The Whirlpool project comes first, Wilson said.

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

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