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Hoot Owl Bridge Repairs: 20 Years Already Screeched By

By Misty Green

A letter that Macon County Mayor Steve Jones received from TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) urged commissioners to approve a motion to spend an additional $36,000 on a bridge that was contracted for repair in 2004/2005 or pay back $115,000 that the state has already put into the Hoot Owl Bridge on New Harmony Road, during the February 20th Legislative Body meeting held at Lafayette City Hall.

The TDOT letter stated: Dear Mayor Jones, the current low bid was received this morning on a subject for improvement… Just a heads-up… Make sure your agency can afford it, they are asking for an additional $36,000 and an additional deposit will be required.

“This bridge was started in 2004 and the contract was written/issued in 2005,” Mayor Jones stated, “Which was the official start time of this.” 

In case a question was asked at the commissioners meeting tonight, Mayor Jones said he went ahead and asked (TDOT) what would happen if this wasn’t approved… 

“The bridge was estimated to cost $750,000 and has come in at around $950,000, but, we have already given them $149,000, so we would have to be giving them another $36,000 for this bridge that’s on a $930,000 project… The problem is, if we don’t, under the contract, we would have to pay back what the state has already done, and she estimated that around $115,000, so it is either pay $36,000 to complete the project that was started or we can say no, I’m not going to do that, and they will bill us $115,000.”

“The price of everything has gone up,” Mayor Jones continued, “And this (wooden) bridge goes over to a few homes.”

Discussion among the governing body ensued.

“So,” District 2 Commissioner Keith Newberry calculated, “We either pay $36,000 or $115,000, is that what I am hearing.”

“That’s the way I understand it,” Mayor Jones replied. “Sounds like a no-brainer to me,” District 10 Helen Hesson added.

“That’s a lot of money for three houses,” another commissioner stated. “I agree,” another stated.

“The road supervisor (Audie Cook) and I have looked at it,” Mayor Jones explained, “And yes, we could build it much cheaper, but this is an obligation that you have put in and I don’t want it to affect us down the road by turning this one down… This is one of the things you need to understand when you make a commitment… This was made, like I said, in 2005 we had a contract on it, and that’s how many years the state has regressed this… So when we do something, it affects us many years down the road.”

“So it’s either finish the project for $36,000 and have a new bridge,” District 10 Commissioner Larry West stated, “Or pay out $115,000… I make a motion that we agree,” and was second by District 10 Commissioner Helen Hesson.

“Well, I don’t see that we really have an option on that,” Mayor Jones declared, “Anyway, we have a motion and a second,” Jones added, “Any further discussion on that, if not, call the roll please.”

“Keith Newberry,” Michelle Day began. “Aye,” Newberry replied. “Mike Jenkins”… “Aye” • “Benton Bartley”… “Aye” • “Ethan Flippin”… “Aye” • “Billy Wilmore”… “Aye” • “Dan Hill”… “Aye” • “Barry Marshall”… “Aye” • “Michael Slayton”… “Guy, is there not anything we can do here… nothing that we can do from here on out…”

“Zero,” Macon County Attorney Guy Holliman replied, “The lot has been cashed on this along time ago… And just so everybody knows, the agreements with the State of Tennessee, of course, they draft those agreements to favor the state and it is a take-it or leave-it… It doesn’t make a difference who negotiated it… They say, if you want this money, then this is what you are going to agree too… There are a few times that they will change the terms of it, but on things like that, they will not change the terms at all… We’re just stuck… I was actually talking to the state senator last Friday, and there actually is a little bit of a push to start not leaving us with money from the state that lasted two years… But the answer is no.”

“If you had no limitations on it, it could go for 30 years,” Commissioner Barry King stated, “If we was to vote on something tonight, it could last forever… I mean thats twenty years. “

“No, It ain’t got to last forever,” Holliman replied, “You can vote not to do it… Be out of around $170,000 and it’s over with… Seriously, Barry, the state looks at it and says, ‘we don’t care’, if ya’ll don’t want your bridge, then pay us what you owe us and well move on to somebody else.”

“If we have to build another bridge in the future, will it be this long on it too,” District 7 Commissioner Jeff Hughes asked?

“Yes, and maybe even longer,” Holliman replied, “Look at the Hwy. 10 project Jeff… There was some people here still in diapers when that project first started.”

“Michael, I left off with you,” Ms. Day continued with the roll call… “Aye,” Slayton replied. • “Jeff Hughes”… “Aye” • “Barry King”… “Aye” • “Bobby Ray King”… “Yes” • “Kyle Petty”… “Aye” • “Wendell Jones”… “Aye” • Jarhea Wilmore”… “Aye” • “Helen Hesson”… “Yes” • “Larry West”… “Aye” • “Phillip Snow”… “No” • “Todd Gentry”… “Aye”. “Motion carried,” Michelle Day stated.

In other business…

Commissioners approved the following in the Election of Notaries: Leigh Ann Anderson, Kristina L. Black, Jo Clark, and Maryette Pederson.

Commissioners approved the minutes from the Legislative Body meeting held on January 22 and the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 5.

Commissioners approved the following budget amendments: Sheriff’s Department (SRO Grant); Animal Control; EMA; Capital Projects (Jail Addition); Juvenile Court; Rural Fire Protection; Solid Waste; County Attorney; General Purpose School. Voting no: Billy Willmore and Phillip Snow.

Commissioners approved resolution/proclamation 2-17/24 FFA Week (Future Farmers of America) February 17-24.

In the County Mayor section of the agenda, commissioners approved the following: a motion to approve Opioid Settlement funds requested by the Drug Council; a motion to approve dirt removal at the Admin/Health Dept. Building site.

Commissioners also approved the monthly reports from Building Codes/Impact Fee; Animal Control; and EMS Operational.

Macon County Director of Schools Shawn Carter gave the commissioners an update on where they stood with the Vocational School and new elementary school plans. Upland Design is currently working up an approximate price for the new vocational school project. District 7 Commissioner Barry King asked Mr. Carter if the size was going to be about the same size as was discussed earlier, and Mr. Carter replied, “It’s going to be a little bit bigger, not much, but a little bit bigger… The Board of Education felt like, while it could potentially be built, we took into consideration the growth that the county is having, and it was advised that it would be cheaper to go ahead and build extra rooms right now and there are some other areas that we would like to start offering… Programs that we do not currently offer at Vocational School or on campus at Macon County High now… One of those being Criminal Justice, and at some point we would like to start offering that.”

As far as the elementary school project goes, Mr. Carter stated he was waiting on approval from the state from the project that has been submitted. 

Absent: District 4 Commissioner Justin Dyer and District 6 Commissioner Tony Wix.

Reminder: The next Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 4th at 6:30 p.m. at the City of Lafayette meeting room.