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‘Show me the money’: state to fund road projects

Tennessee governor Bill Lee has worked into his FY 2020-21 state budget some $50 million that will be divided between the 95 counties. The governor has earmarked the money for use in one-time capital outlay projects.

Ronnie Pittman, superintendent of the Claiborne Road Department, announced the good news during the Claiborne Commission meeting. Pittman said the county is in line for more than $250,000. An extra chunk of change will be added to that base amount, depending on the county’s population, he said.

Pittman said the governor had set aside the funds with the stipulation it be used in at least one of five ways. On that list is the construction and/or rehabilitation of bridges, he said.

“We just ask for your consideration. There’s no obligation or commitments, or decisions to be made here,” said Pittman.

The road superintendent recently designated some $60,000 from his line item budget to begin the process of restructuring a low-water crossing along Gap Creek Road. Residents living along the road have endured decades of repeated flooding resulting in the homeowners being stranded for weeks at a time. A significant portion of the residents are elderly, chronically ill, or both.

Pittman said he is also working to relieve chronic problems with the low-water crossing in Singleton Hollow. These two crossings are the last ones of their type left in the county.

The initial $60,000 from the Road Department budget will allow Pittman to proceed with the design and engineering portions of the project.

“I have also looked at Lone Mountain Shores. I’m going to have to pull out $152,000 of my budget and realign it next month in finance savings. We’ll be making that move to do our part of a grant that’s coming up,” said Pittman.

Apparently, there have been two major slides in the Lone Mountain Shore region – one which will be supported by a NRCS grant (Natural Resources Conservation Service, formerly the USDA Soil Conservation Service).

This project is currently projected at $608,000, he said.

Another $50,000 will be needed from the county to address slides in the Chimney Rock area. The slides have resulted in shutting down virtually half the road, said Pittman.

“This one (the project), right now, is projected to come in at $150,000. There’re no funds to support it. So, I’m asking you to take the time, when this money becomes available, to (consider giving some of the funds for this and other projects),” said Pittman.

He reminded the commissioners of the move last month to apply for a Hazard Mitigation Grant to pay for a study of chronic flooding along Julia Lane. Additional funds will be needed to pay the county’s portion of the matching grant, if approved.