The Bradley County Commission will consider a finance committee recommendation to pursue a change to the Harriman Road project state contract at its next voting session.
During Monday’s work session finance committee chairman Ed Elkins asked that the issue be placed on the voting agenda, rather then simply being approved with the consent agenda.
“That is one of the reasons I voted against the budget request, because I felt this needed to be aired,” Elkins said. “Sometimes when you do something for the greater good of the county it might not be what’s best for a community.”
The local interstate connector south for the Spring Brach Industrial Park has required improvements to Harriman Road — improvements that local residents were leery of from the start because of the potential environment impact on Brymer Creek. Water runoff has caused sediment to flow into the creek.
Several change orders to the project have increased the cost of the project. Some of the increase is due to the replacement of soil erosion controls that have failed. Other increases have been because of a change from 8 percent to 6 percent in the road grade. Elkins said the change was made after the 8 percent grade had been completed, requiring some work to be redone.
“As far along as we are with this, I think we have reached the point of no return ... if you stop the project, you’ll continue to have all the erosion and existing problems down there. The only way to correct this is to fix what needs to be fixed,” Elkins said.
The amendment passed by the finance committee would move funding from the north connector road, which will not be started for two years, to the current project. The state has approved this plan.
Elkins voiced concerns about this plan. He said he was concerned that because the Harriman Road project costs came in higher than expected, the other project might cost more as well.
“This body that funded this thing originally got zero vote in any changes that were made in this, although we are funding equally with the city our cost of the project,” Elkins said.
When changes were made on the project, the decisions were made by the city of Cleveland as was agreed at the start of the project.
Elkins said he was concerned that something had not been done to address soil erosion and stormwater runoff issues sooner.
“A lot of the environmental issues that haven’t been addressed in this were raised in an inspection of the worksite by TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) on May 23, 2013 ... some of the things that were requested didn’t happen,” Elkins said. “These problems had existed long before that date.”
Concerned residents of the McDonald area and others concerned about the environmental impact of the Harriman Road project attended Monday’s meeting.
Many sported green rubber wrist bands proclaiming their opposition to the Spring Branch Industrial Park Project as a whole. The bands read “S.O.S. Stuck on Stupid Spring Branch Industrial Park.”
Resident Steve Campbell addressed the Commission with his concerns. Campbell said he had completed a video a year ago showing sediment flowing from Spring Branch into Brymer Creek.
“Nothing has changed,” Campbell said.
He said each government entity he talks to says it is someone else’s jurisdiction.
“We have been a year without common sense ... I don’t know who to blame,” Campbell said.
He also voiced concern that environmental issues will only worsen when the industrial branch is developed.
Resident Dan Rawls asked why the contractor was not being held responsible to replace erosion controls that were improperly installed.
“I do believe there needs to be some accountability from the contractor,” 5th District Commissioner Jeff Yarber said.
Fourth District Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said TDEC has waived the environmental violation penalty for 45 days to allow for issues to be corrected.
Rawls asked why the contractor could change the price on the project when a lower price had been accepted in the bid
“As the project unfolded there was additional work that needed to be done,” Elkins said. “Several of these changes were not what the contractor requested. It was what the city requested.”
Rawls also had concerns about the road grade being changed to 6 percent grade. He said the 8 percent grade had been chosen to discourage heavy truck traffic on Harriman Road. First District Commissioner Terry Caywood said the road is within the city limits, so the county does not have deciding power.
At the beginning of the project a committee was formed that included two community members to give input. McDonald residents say the committee has never had a meeting. Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters said he hopes the committee will meet soon to discuss the community’s concerns.
Also during the meeting, a resolution was proposed to reconsider changing the year when funding is borrowed for renovations at Lake Forest Middle School to 2014-2015 instead of 2017. It will be voted on at the next voting session.
The Commission’s next voting session will be Tuesday at 7 p.m.