|County eyes 2018 projects
Loudon County officials are eyeing big things for the new year as they look to start projects that have been in the public eye for a while.
Loudon County commissioners agree work on a county jail expansion will take priority in 2018, with bid openings potentially occurring as soon as February or March.
Michael Brady Inc., representative Jay Henderlight in November told commissioners designs put the jail improvement cost at $15,213,500. Commission in March approved spending $15 million for the project.
Commissioner Van Shaver said five or six pre-approved general contractors responded to the county’s request for qualifications. Plans are being reviewed by the state fire marshal’s office.
Henderlight said work could be underway as early as April.
“In my personal view this is a huge step forward to finally eliminating a problem that we’ve struggled with for so long, and I think what makes it so great in my position is we were able to solve the problem without impacting the taxpayers,” Shaver said. “We’re going to pay for it with existing revenue and so no tax increases and solve the problem at the same time. That’s a pretty big get right there.”
Construction could take 18-24 months, Steve Harrelson, commission chairman, said.
“That’s going to be our biggest project coming up in ’18,” Harrelson said. “It’s something that Loudon County’s been working on and trying to figure out a way to take care of the overcrowding issue, and we were glad to be able to do that and not have to increase taxes and take care of the overcrowding with the same tax base that we’ve got set now.”
Starting the project in 2018 without an tax increase is big, county officials say.
“It’s going to resolve a long-standing issue,” Henry Cullen, commissioner, said. “Think of how far back that goes. What the jail committee’s been going through five-plus years. We’re going to finally bring this to a conclusion, hopefully, but I won’t know until (county purchasing director) Susan Huskey opens the bids (in) February. I think that’s going to be probably I won’t say the No. 1 item, but it’s going to be an important project for the county to get behind us.”
Landfill soon resolved?
Commissioners will start remediating Poplar Springs Landfill in 2018.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has given the county an OK to extend until 2019. Hopes are to begin in late summer or fall.
“They have no problem with the extension,” Bradshaw said. “They want it fixed correctly where it’s going to last for as long as possible.
Bradshaw said seeing this project get underway will be “huge” considering remediation was a top issue during his campaign running for mayor in 2014.
“There was a lot of people concerned about it and this was — Loudon County had never seen anything like this before,” Bradshaw said. “This was new, and most of the mayors I had talked with had never dealt with anything like this before. This project was a different beast than anything we had seen before, and, of course, hindsight is 20/20 on it. Would I have done some things differently on it? Probably. But I would have still done it regardless.”
Commission in June 2016 initially approved a matching state grant, but in August the group deadlocked after discovering a large volume of legal service charges spent on the project. The Poplar Springs Landfill fund had $437,968 four years ago, but has since decreased to about $195,000 as of October.
“I think we all would have loved to have it finished by now,” Harrelson said. “It’s just been a complicated issue ever since we’ve been dealing with it and just trying to get the project approved and all the questions answered. It just seemed like there were a lot of questions that commissioners had before we could make a final approval. But we did get it passed in what I thought was plenty of time to get the work done this year and get it out of the way, but that wasn’t my decision when they decided to put it off ... that was out of my control.
“I would have loved to see it get started and go ahead and get it finished, but it’s something that delayed and slipped further and we’re just having to deal with,” he added.
Cullen said moving past Poplar Springs should be “big” for the county.
“Anytime you got that stuff to get behind us, that’s where you want to be,” Cullen said.