Lenoir City steps up on Harrison Road funding

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

Lenoir City Council approved a share of nearly $400,000 for utility relocation after recently learning Tennessee Department of Transportation would not help with additional funding for the Harrison Road intersection project.

Council voted 6-0 to provide $97,627.50, and Lenoir City Board of Education added money to the project with a Thursday vote. Lenoir City Utilities Board and Loudon County Commission are both expected to vote on the agenda item, with commission holding a special-called meeting Feb. 21.

City Administrator Amber Scott said moving the utilities will cost $390,510.

“It was a little bit of a shocker for us here at the last minute,” Scott said after the meeting. “We were not made aware that TDOT would not partially fund the relocation of the utilities. ... We were just not aware of that, but I’m glad we’ll be able to potentially come together and help offset that cost.”
Mayor Tony Aikens said TDOT told city officials in the “11th hour” that the department would not pay for utility relocation because it was not a state-controlled project.
“We were told in the last minute — I mean they’ve had these plans, they sent them back, they approved, they said that we’re good to go and then at the last minute, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re not paying for this’,” Aikens said. “... If they would have been in control of it, and we asked them to take it back over, of course they said ‘no,’ and they say that it’s — but they never told us.”
The entire project will cost a little more than $2.7 million, with Charles Black & Sons Inc., handling construction. Work will include placing turn lanes at the intersection in front of Lenoir City High School heading each direction, widening the road to 20 feet and forming three lanes beside the school, with two through lanes heading toward Town Creek.
“It’s just something that needs to be done, and they’re ready to start digging,” Aikens said. “It’s going to be a mess out there for a while, but I think all the people that live in that area certainly are going to appreciate it once it’s done.”
Eighteen parcels and 12 property owners are impacted by the project, which is financed with a $3.2 million 80-20 grant. The county and city will pay 10 percent each for the local match.
“They approved our budget every step,” Scott said. “In those estimations, in that budget, the dollars were shown there for the utility relocation to pay the contractor to relocate those utilities and they never had any problems about it before, but it does put us in a bad position because it is the rule and that’s a situation we’re in right now.”
Vice Mayor Eddie Simpson reminded council the project has been in the works for 10 years and is based on 10-year-old cost estimates.
“Nothing is the same cost as it was 10 years ago and we have to face the fact that things increase and we have to be prepared to build in today’s time,” Simpson said. “Really I guess when you take the effect of inflation and all that, the $400,000 is not bad, just shy of $400,000, because I know our engineering costs and all that stuff’s just continued to rise.”