The DeKalb County Commission Monday night approved a plan to provide escorts of large trucks across Hurricane Bridge through at least September and to apply for a state grant to help recoup the county's costs. The purpose is to control weight loads on the bridge.
Under the proposal, County Mayor Mike Foster says the county will appropriate around $20,000 to hire at least a couple of people with experience in law enforcement or traffic control who would work a forty hour week monitoring traffic across Hurricane Bridge. These officers will be responsible for making sure that no more than one large truck passes over the bridge at a time. Foster says the Tennessee Department of Transportation has agreed to the plan. "They have agreed and if the county would agree to supply people to go down there an escort people across the bridge so that only one big truck is on Hurricane bridge at a time, they (TDOT) will allow them (trucks) to carry 72,000 pounds. This will help our industries and school buses that are crossing it, and it will cost the county probably in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000 between now and September. However, I talked to Paul Degges (TDOT Chief Engineer) today and he has acquired for us a Section 402 police traffic service grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Office so that we can apply for a $20,000 grant to repay us through the sheriff's office. We will pay for it (manning the escorts) and they (state) will refund us through Sheriff Ray's office $20,000 through September. The money needs to flow through his department."
Degges told WJLE Friday night that TDOT hopes to have the design plans for the rehabilitation of Hurricane Bridge completed by September and a contract bid letting could follow this fall if state funding can be secured for the project, which is expected to cost between $12 and $15 million dollars.
Foster says once TDOT begins construction work on the bridge, the county's responsibility for manning truck escorts across Hurricane would end, because the state would be controlling traffic on the bridge.
Meanwhile, in other business the county commission voted to transfer ownership of the county owned shirt factory building, being used by Omega Apparel, to the DeKalb County Industrial Development Board.
Foster says this move will benefit Omega and help them create more jobs. "Omega is the sole maker of the 13 button broad fall Navy pants. Every pair of Navy pants is made right here and has been for fifteen years. We have about 86 jobs that work there. They recently received a new contract to make skirts. That will be 29 new jobs. They have also applied for another contract for class-A dress pants with a stripe on the side. If they get that, it will mean 82 more new jobs. They are going to apply for a federal loan but to get them a better rate and to make sure we do everything the way we're supposed to do it, we would like to ask to transfer deed of the old shirt factory building to the DeKalb County Industrial Development Board. This allows them to assist Omega in applying for low interest federal loans to help provide new jobs. It will not happen unless they get this contract and DeKalb County gets 112 new jobs out of it. But it will help them, and they will spend that money on the county building to put a new air conditioning and heating system in it, divide it, and do some work on it. They (Omega) will move their cutting room across the street (to the shirt factory building) on this side (east) of South Mountain Street and manufacturing will stay on the other side (shirt factory building on the west side). The loan is to be entirely paid back by Omega."
Foster brought the commission up to date on the latest developments with the Town and Country Shopping Center building, which is now owned by the county, and he asked for and received authorization to speak with architects about some renovation work on the buildings. "We actually got the deed to the property on January 4th and we legally could not do anything with it, nor could we take people out there to look at it, because of the liability issues. We now have it in our possession and have insured it. So we'll begin having meetings (on potential uses). We talked about title insurance. I went ahead and got title insurance because it was a very complicated title. We'd also like to get some input from architects to begin planning as to what we need to do. I would like authorization to talk to the three or four architects that you all named in the meeting the other night to get some input and ideas and settle on an architect to do this work."
On other matters, the commission appointed Judy Sandlin and Jimmy Herndon to four year terms on the county industrial development board and re-appointed Danny Pirtle and Jerry Taylor to the regional planning commission.
Foster says Jim Poss of DeKalb EMS will serve as the county's TOSHA officer, subject to completion of a job description for the position.
The commission approved the county fire department's selection for another year of Donny Green as DeKalb County Fire Chief and Roy Merriman as Assistant Chief.
The annual contract between the county and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was approved allocating $38,080 in federal funds for the sheriff's department for providing a certain number of patrols at various lake sites from April through September.
Foster received authorization for an emergency purchase to have a garbage truck repaired, which was involved in a traffic accident earlier this month near Sligo bridge on Highway 70. He says the cost is expected to be $35,488. Foster will obtain more estimates and present them to either the purchasing and or budget committees for approval.
According to Foster, DeKalb County's economy grew last year based on sales tax collections. "December sales tax revenues were $294,241. Last year, December (2008) collections were $252, 463. That's up by $41,778, about a 14% increase over same month last year."
"For the year, DeKalb County's sales tax collections were $1,883,484, up $102,488 for the year, a 5.45% increase. We were the only county in the Upper Cumberland that had revenues that increased in sales taxes for the year."