BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (September 10) — Members of the Public Works Committee voiced support for a resolution creating a procedure for forming, changing and closing public roads, as outlined in a new state law.
The resolution supports adopting the provisions of TCA 54-10-216 relative to opening, closing or changing public roads that are not maintained by any other governmental entity.
It calls for forming a standing committee of the county legislative body to be established and comprised of five county legislative body members selected by the chairman of the county legislative body each year.
The Public Works Committee unanimously approved the resolution, which now goes before the Rules Committee for its consideration. After the county mayor recommends five commissioners to serve on the standing committee, it will be presented to the full Weakley County Commission when it meets September 21.
The road closures involve those that are not on the Highway Department’s road maintenance list. They may have been public roads at one time, but are no longer used for that purpose. Committee members suggested allowing the property on which these roads are located revert to the respective property owners on either side. The center of the road is usually designated as the dividing line between properties, unless otherwise stated in the deeds.
This will put the property back on the tax rolls and generate additional revenue for the county.
The standing committee will also consider adding new roads to the county’s road maintenance list, and changing the names of roadways as deemed appropriate.
In other business, the Public Works Committee approved a resolution amending the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The changes are necessitated, due to the Weakley County Highway Fund receiving $1,000 more in revenue than originally projected.
Weakley County Highway Supervisor Charles Ross discussed the problem his department has with hiring and retaining employees. He stated, even though Weakley County pays salaries comparable to neighboring counties and has excellent benefits, he is having a hard time keeping skilled drivers and equipment operators.
Ross explained counties with a much larger tax base, which are capable of paying higher wages, hire many of these employees. Others are obtaining employment at private companies.
Ross noted it wouldn’t be prudent to take money out of materials in order to increase wages, if county roads are to be maintained. He stated additional revenue is needed for the Highway Department in order to increase pay.
Commissioner Roger Donaldson stated recruiting employees willing to work is currently a nationwide problem. He suggested addressing the problem in next year’s budget.
Ross gave committee members an update on the status of the three ongoing county bridge projects and roadwork.
“The river bridge over the Obion River on Old Hwy 22 has been finished for quite some time, other than paving,” Ross said. He noted the two other smaller bridges between the river bridge and Swanson Drive are also practically finished. “They were doing a little rip-rap work around it this week.” He stated the bridge projects should be completed in the next month or so, providing the weather allows work to continue.
Regarding construction at the Highway Department, Cary Henson of Henson Construction Services, who serves as construction manager for the Highway Department and School Garage additions and renovations, informed committee members of the progress on these projects.
Henson states there were delays receiving materials and with manpower, due to the coronavirus. “We’re a little bit behind on the first phase, which includes construction of the Highway Department administration building.”
He stated the concrete work is completed on all of the structures. Henson said the roof is being installed on the administration building, so work may begin on the interior soon. The concrete floors are poured in the county shop and storage building, but the walls and roofs are incomplete. Henson stated the fueling station is complete and is being utilized.
According to Henson, the new administration building should be completed by the end of this year. He anticipates the new Highway Department building will be completed by the end of January 2021. Henson says he expects renovation of the school bus bay, located inside the existing county shop, to be completed by the end of May 2021.
To lower costs, the plan calls for surfacing the parking lot with tar and chip. However, Commissioner Donaldson suggested, paving the parking lot with hot-mix, because it is more durable and lasts longer, providing sufficient funds are left over in the project’s budget.
Henson estimates the entire project will be completed by the end of June 2021.
When asked about the status of renovations to the Weakley County Courthouse, Henson said the work is almost completed. “We’re in the final touch-up stages. As far as I know, everybody is pleased with the progress.” He stated the problem with falling ceiling tiles is no longer an issue, because they have all been removed. “We’re installing drywall, so you won’t have that headache anymore.” He added, the moisture problem on the third floor is corrected.
Henson stated, once renovations to the Weakley County Courthouse are completed, these laborers will work on the projects at the Highway Department.