$8.75 mil interchange payment plan would ‘free up’ $600,000

A looming $8.75 million expense — the Town’s portion of the project to improve the I-75/40 interchange at North Campbell Station Road — weighed on discussions between Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen members as they studied capital outlay projects during a workshop Thursday, Nov. 10.

The Board discovered in September its share of the costs to improve the interchange would run $8.75 million, causing them to rethink future road, park and other projects.

While state and federal money would pay for a brunt of the project, which totals $48.5 million, the Town still is expected to pay its share, according to Town administrator David Smoak.

“I have been in discussions with TDOT to try to allow us – instead of a four-year plan – to have a five-year plan to pay TDOT,” Smoak said.

‘That frees up about $600,000 a year in our budget,” he added. “It does put a $2 million payment further out, but that does help in our overall budgeting.”

Also, to help balance the budget, the Board discussed putting off or eliminating a number of capital improvement projects at its September workshop.

To that, Smoak recommended taking $3.1 million from land acquisitions, from its account, and future donations to that fund and using it toward the interchange project. He also recommended eliminating or delaying the amphitheater in Town Center, museum gallery renovations, construction of a wetlands nature park next to Town Hall, Grigsby Chapel traffic mitigation and Evans Road improvements.

He said that would come to $7,588,072 million that could be used toward the I-75/40 interchange project.

“When we do that, we are able to balance our budget for the next six years,” Smoak said.

With that being said, he reminded the Board about a proposed Jamestowne Boulevard project, and Town Hall improvements and some other projects that would be paid for with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“I think this (ARPA) money should go toward the Town Hall improvements, and we should keep this on our radar,” Alderman Scott Meyer said.

“I agree with Scott,” Mayor Ron Williams said. However, “One of the things we don’t know yet is what our value is on the north property of the Interstate.

“Based on what property is for sale beside it, we could extrapolate what it might be,” Williams added.

“We’re budgeting worst case scenario that we have to pay out in full $8.75 million,” Smoak said. “TDOT has been willing to work with us to give us some credit, as the mayor had said, for possible donations, but we won’t know for a couple years what that’s going to be.

“Until that time, I want to make sure we have money allocated and funded for that,” he added.

“I would give up the tennis courts … and keep the amphitheater.”

“We have talked a long time about the Town Center amphitheater,” Alderman Drew Burnett said. “We have also talked about it possibly going mobile and going to the great lawn and any other park we wanted … I would really like to keep that project.”

“I don’t want to take anything away from (the town center) being amazing,” added Burnett, who recommended removing the Kingston Pike tunnel project, which would free up $320,000 in the budget.

“I think for that tunnel to be usable, you’re going to need a lot more pedestrian activity down there,” Vice Mayor Louise Povlin said. “Even with the multi-family (development) there, you’re still not going to have a ton of pedestrian activity.

“I’m concerned that what our imagination of what it could fall short of what it ends up being,” she added.

“I agree, also, and the Craig Allen property, whatever happens with that, then you’re right there with it,” Williams said. “We look at a l

Regarding the Town Hall building improvements, he said there currently is $1 million in the budget for that project, but it is going to take $2.5 million to actually complete it.

“If that’s a project the Board wants to do, it will probably use up the rest of those funds.”

“Based on the current projects that we have out there right now, you would have roughly $1.5 million left in ARPA funding in order to do some other projects,” he added.

“Honestly, I think the Town Hall improvements are very important,” Meyer said. “I’ve been up and seen the space where the staff works. It’s tiny; it’s embarrassing.”

In looking at the many needed projects, Alderman David White suggested, as he had in September, that the Board considers issuing a bond.

Smoak said that is one avenue to consider after other options are taken into account.