Commissioners hear public road service on proposed loan for roads

ByRichard C. Sloan

Oct 19, 2021

HUNTSVILLE – County commissioners heard from community residents and county road department workers on Monday about a $ 10 million loan project that will allow the highways department to pave more than 100 miles of roads in the county of Scott over the next two years.

Kelvin King, the county’s highway superintendent, has proposed a $ 10 million line of credit that will allow his ministry to pave a total of 146 miles of county highways between March 2022 and March 2024. The commissioners have not still voted on the proposal, which must also be approved by the state comptroller’s office. The purpose of Monday’s meeting was a public hearing to allow commissioners to hear from voters ahead of the vote, which will take place on November 15.

One by one, a handful of residents of the county’s 1st, 2nd and 7th civilian districts took to the podium to speak out on the need for additional funding for the roads department.

“We need to fix our roads, so you need to find the money,” Deanna Wright, who lives on Wolf Creek Road, told Robbins. She added that if the Commissioners rejected King’s proposal for a $ 10 million loan, “you should have another way in mind to raise the funds we need.”

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“I’d rather pay more taxes, or more taxes on the wheels, or whatever, and have a decent road to drive on,” she added. “We have really low property taxes in this area. “

Wright’s husband Larry Wright also spoke up and echoed his wife’s feelings that additional taxes to fix Scott County roads would be better instead of keeping them as they are now.

“You have to follow everyone,” he said. “We need roads. Not just Wolf Creek. We need roads in many places.

King’s plan, if approved, would allow the road service to begin paving in March 2022. The first roads on its list would be Nydeck Road, Coal Hill Road, Campground Road and Wolf Creek Road in Robbins. He provided commissioners with a list of roads he plans to pave, although 2nd District Commissioner Sam Lyles stressed the list was not a priority.

King said he intended to do what is commonly referred to as “hot paving” on all the roads on the list, although the rise in the price of oil may result in the removal of some of the roads. routes from the list.

“We’re going to do it right,” he said. “Most of these roads (now) are chipped and sealed and they just won’t stand freeze and thaw. We will lay down a hot mixture and lay it correctly. “

According to King’s plan, the roads department would have 20 years to repay the loan, with total interest payments of just over $ 3 million. County Mayor Jeff Tibbals said he had requested – but was not given – a detailed plan on how the roads department would repay the funds. According to the proposal, the county government would ultimately be responsible for the debt. However, by structuring it as a line of credit for the highways department, it would not depend on the maintenance of the county effort, as it would if the county allocated land tax revenue to the highways department.

Currently, Scott County contributes less than $ 300 of its budget each year for road maintenance. In Tennessee, county road departments are funded by the state’s gasoline tax. Anything the county contributes is part of sustaining the effort, which means the same amount must be provided each year.

Tibbals said discussions of how to pave roads in rural communities are part of ongoing discussions that involve the state.

“I totally agree that it has to be done, but the question is how is it done? Said Tibbals. “It’s not just a Scott County problem. I have had dinner with a lot of different mayors and each one of them says this is a major problem. In Hamblin County, the maximum they can pave is five to seven miles per year. So they can’t keep up. My spiel against the state is that it’s not just for Scott County. This is something we need for all rural communities.

There is excess money at the state level, Tibbals said. He pointed out that the state had $ 276 million in excess tax revenue last month.

“There is money there. We just have to persuade the legislature to allocate more money for highway services, not just for Scott County but for all rural counties, ”he said. “It is not overlooked. It is under discussion.

Tibbals also said there was hope that once Scott County paid off some of its debt, it could reallocate funds from the debt service fund to road maintenance. The debt in question will be relieved in two to three years.

But Wright said Wolf Creek Road can’t wait two or three years to be paved.

Rick Burke, a former county commissioner who is an employee of the highways department, said discussions on how to find more money for road maintenance have been going on for 20 years.

“If we don’t do something, we will never be able to do more than what we are doing now,” he said. “The people of Scott County deserve as good roads as anyone else.

Sherman Vaughn, who moved to Scott County and bought a home in the Toomey Falls subdivision of West Oneida four years ago, asked where the increased tax revenue was being spent, given that a number of new homes are being spent. under construction in Scott County.

“We have a great school system. We have the best park service. Everything we have here in Scott County is great, but road service is by far the worst thing we have, ”said Vaughn. “When people come here looking for property and this and that, they ask me. And I will say the worst part is that we don’t have the money to fix the roads.

Vaughn added that “it is not the fault (of the road service). I will not criticize them.

Seventh District Commissioner Mike Slaven explained that land tax revenues are not earmarked for road repairs.

“If we built 10 million houses and had $ 10 million in property tax, none of that money would go to road services,” Slaven said. “Once we start this, it never ends. Once we donate money to the roads department, we are obligated to do so every year.

Tim Harris, a resident of Shotoff Cliff Road in the community of Grave Hill, said the county is sending the message that it is not supporting road construction or maintenance, which is hampering economic development.

“Whether it’s Kelvin King or Tim Harris or somebody else running the highways department, you’re going to have to have more money to have a top-notch road network,” he said. -he declares. “What we have right now may be third-rate.”

Rick Massengale, a resident of Straight Fork Road, said he was “deeply disappointed” to learn that his property taxes are not used to fix roads.

“I pay $ 2,000 a year in taxes and I don’t see what the point is,” he said, adding that Scott County had “the worst roads in the state”.

In response to a question from District 2 Commissioner Jerried Jeffers, King said he would consider 220 miles of the 536 miles of pavement currently maintained by the roads department to be in good condition. After 146 miles of pavement have been paved over the next two years, if the loan is approved, there would be approximately 170 miles of pavement left for highway service to work on “over time,” King said.

Both Jeffers and Lyles questioned King at length about the roads that will be paved and other aspects of the proposed loan.