Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen was facing a “dilemma” during a special called workshop meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6.
Town administrator David Smoak said the staff learned from the state the North Campbell Station Road interchange with Interstate 40/75 project is going to cost the Town $8.75 million.
Board members took two hours discussing the upcoming projects in its current CIP, choosing to re-prioritize projects rather than consider a bond, incurring debt.
“I look at this, very much, as needs and wants — needs meaning public safety for our required maintenance of existing facilities that we need to make sure that we’re maintaining,” Vice Mayor Louise Povlin said. “We have a lot of wants in this that aren’t needed.”
However, the Board took no formal action.
“We’re putting opinions on the table right now,” Mayor Ron Williams said.
“Town engineer Darryl Smith has been working on this for 22 years, since he’s been here, trying to get this project started … to help alleviate traffic congestion in our area,” Smoak said.
This year, the state was able to allocate some one-time funding for several projects around the state, with two in Knox County: the Campbell Station and Watt Road interchanges, he added.
“There was a study done by WSP Engineering, and they looked at the entire interchange system and what would be the best solution, in their minds, to modify the interchange,” Smoak said.
According to the state’s plan, the Town has some right-of-way north of the proposed interchange, just to the west of the hotels near the location.
“Shortly after the Town approved our budget in May, we received notification from the state of matching grant funds they would require from the Town in this year’s budget to move this project forward,” Smoak said. “That matching amount is approximately $8,750,000.
“(Tennessee Department of Transportation) will take care of everything that’s within the Interstate right-of-way, 100 percent, but then based on local funding that they can do, the rest will be a 50-50 match to tie in all of the other roadway that would tie into the interchange, which is basically Campbell Station Road,” he added.
“Now, the good part is TDOT has agreed to not to make us pay that all up front. They proposed $500,000 the first year, so that would move the project forward for design and start the process there, and then we would need $2.75 million in each of the next three years … over a four-year period.
“Really, we can’t do it with our current (Capital Investment Plan) right now,” Smoak said. “We’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
The Board had three options: reprioritize or eliminate current projects in its six-year CIP budget, transfer funds from the General Fund balance into the CIP fund or issue bonds for the entire amount, or a portion, of the $8.75 million.
“What would be the biggest negative of the bond?” Alderman David White asked the Town administrator.
“What I would anticipate is if you did a bond issue, and that bond issue costs us $8.75 million, then over a 20-year period, that would be $608,000 per year you have to pay in debt service,” Smoak answered.
“It would be $608,000 less we would be putting into General Fund (revenues),” he added, also noting the Board still might have to remove a project or two from consideration.
“I do not want to take on debt,” Povlin said. “You’re saddling several Boards forward with having to do with the debt we take on.”
“I don’t like debt any more than anyone else,” White said. “But, I don’t feel comfortable removing anything dealing with safety.”
“I (believe) slash it if it’s not needed … take all of it out that we don’t need and then put back in as we think we can afford to put back in,” Povlin said.
“So, as long as we have been trying to get Campbell Station Inn improvements, I think it doesn’t hurt my feelings to take that off the board for right now,” she added.
Other projects considered “wants” were Town Hall renovations, Little Turkey Creek Greenway, and mid-walk crossing at McGee and Anchor Park pedestrian crossing.
However, Povlin said school-zone signal improvements, the Grigsby Chapel crosswalk, and Sonja Drive sidewalk between Admiral Road and Dundee, are needed, as they are safety issues.