published Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Bradley County, Cleveland leaders discuss Whirlpool road improvement costs

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's Finance Committee will meet with TDOT officials regarding the Whirlpool road improvement projects on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Bradley County Courthouse.

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County commissioners would like the Cleveland City Council to reconsider how much the city will contribute to road improvements linked to Whirlpool's planned relocation to Benton Pike.

"We want to come to a mutual agreement that is financially beneficial to all of us," Commissioner Connie Wilson said Friday in a meeting with city leaders.

The issue focuses on how the county and city will divide nearly $2 million in rights-of-way and road upgrade expenditures for Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue.

City Mayor Tom Rowland and City Manager Janice Casteel agreed to bring the County Commission's concerns to the City Council.

The city and county will split the local-government costs associated with city road segments, while the county will assume all costs for county road improvements, according to current Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates.Under that plan, the city will pay $300,000 and the county will pay more than $1.6 million to launch the projects.

County and city leaders have different understandings of how the costs should be divided. The City Council recently passed a resolution supporting the current cost allocation.

"We have a financial issue with that," said Wilson, chairwoman of the county finance committee.

County commissioners said they believed the total road project cost would be split 50/50 with the city, just as they did previously with $1.8 million in costs to handle infrastructure construction at the Whirlpool site.

Casteel defended the City Council's decision to support the current TDOT cost allocation instead of dividing the total project cost evenly between the city and county. She estimated that 55 cents out of every county tax dollar used for the road improvements comes out of city taxpayers' pockets.

"So when we put in another dollar into the project to match you, we're really putting in $1.55 out of $2," said Casteel.

She also told commissioners that the city would have shouldered more of the burden if it had not been rebuffed in its attempt to annex more property near the future Whirlpool site.

"I think the biggest problem we've got now is not how it is split, but how much is being split," said Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Farlow, who urged a quick resolution to the issue.

County and city officials agreed that the TDOT estimates seemed a bit high for the improvements that would be made.

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

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