Sullivan County abandons plans for pedestrian bridge

J. H. Osborne • Jun 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A proposal to convert a soon-to-be-replaced steel truss bridge on Highway 75 for pedestrian use appears dead in the water.

A resolution to ask the Tennessee Department of Transportation to leave the old bridge in place, near Boone Dam, has been on the Sullivan County Commission’s agenda for a couple of months.

County Commissioner Sam Jones, that resolution’s prime sponsor, formally withdrew the proposal Monday.

For two months the Sullivan County Commission has deferred action on a resolution regarding the bridge. Commissioners said they were waiting on the state to respond to questions about how leaving the bridge in place could cost so much.

Last week, a TDOT spokesman told the Times-News state highway officials didn’t know county officials wanted more information — and they stand by their earlier estimate of $6 million to convert the bridge for pedestrian use.

The total cost could reach $8.4 million if a replacement bridge is redesigned in order to keep the old bridge standing, according to TDOT.

After Jones pulled the resolution Monday, County Mayor Steve Godsey said he thinks TDOT’s $6 million estimate to convert the bridge was the state agency’s way of avoiding any potential redesign of the replacement bridge by discouraging the county from asking to save the old bridge.

Jones unveiled an amendment Monday to another resolution he’s sponsoring, to create a new position in county government: county veterans service officer.

The resolution originally contained no estimate for what the new position would cost — although Jones said he wasn’t asking for any more funding than the $11,900 per year the county currently budgets for veterans service programs.

That money is split between a program operated by the American Legion in Kingsport ($8,000) and an office in Bristol, Va. ($3,900).

“We’re not asking for additional dollars ... but to keep it here,” Jones said earlier this month.

His proposal calls for establishment of an office in Blountville, with the officeholder — only honorably discharged veterans who live in the county need apply — to be appointed by Godsey. The person would also have to be, or become, a certified veterans service officer per the state’s veterans affairs department.

On Monday, Jones amended the resolution to say the office will be funded at a rate of $7,500 for the budget year that begins July 1, but stopped short of saying where that money would come from.

Jones said Godsey has offered county office space to be used for the new position.

The version of the resolution presented Monday carried the names of six other commissioners as co-sponsors: Joe Herron, Randy Morrell, Bill Kilgore, Moe Brotherton, Cathy Armstrong and Dwight King.

The issue could come back for an up or down vote by the full commission next month.

In other business Monday, County Attorney Dan Street told the commission state law forbids the county highway department from doing paving work for a non-government entity — and local volunteer fire departments are not government entities.

The commission is considering a request for the county’s highway department to pave a parking lot for the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department — which would reimburse the county $9,000.

After Street spoke on the issue, the commission voted in favor of having Street provide commissioners with a written summary of what he had said.

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