In a letter presented to the Bradley County Commission Monday, Corporate Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Jeff Noel and other Whirlpool representatives asked “that the state of Tennessee and local governments find an immediate resolution that will allow the roadway improvement project to commence without delay to best enhance the general public and maximize long-term potential for employment growth.”
How needed road improvements for industrial access to the Whirlpool site will be paid for has been the topic of several county government meetings in the past two weeks.
Fourth District Commissioner J. Adam Lowe asked Monday if the city of Cleveland had reconsidered its resolution to pay half of the costs within the city and none of the cost outside of the city.
Chairman Louie Alford said the issue was not on the City Council’s agenda and no action had been taken as of Monday. The County Commission is waiting to see if the city will change its mind before pursuing other options.
According to the letter from Whirlpool, addressed to local mayors as well as commissioners for the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the existing roadways will not be able to safely handle the employee and truck traffic created by the new plant.
Whirlpool had asked the governments to have the roads completed by May 1, 2012, if possible. Representatives from TDOT recently said once the right of way acquisition process begins the project will take at least a year.
TDOT estimates for the cost of expanding the right of way have come in higher than either local government anticipated. State funding is paying for the majority of the road improvements, and part of the right of way costs. The remaining cost is to be paid by a local match. Benton Pike will become a three-lane road, while Durkee Road will remain a two-lane road.
Also during the meeting Monday, the Commission placed two items on the agenda for the next voting session. The first was to switch the income available for the Healthy Community Initiative grants to be based on the fiscal year rather than calendar year. The second was a resolution to cancel the meeting for the last week in December.
The meeting was originally scheduled for Dec. 27. Alford said the Commission has not held this work session in the past because so many commissioners are out of town.
As the Commission contemplates options for road development, the finance and education committees are also looking for ways to fund capital projects for the Bradley County Schools system. The most recent consideration was implementing a wheel tax. This option will be further discussed during a joint meeting of the committees Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the Commission meeting room.