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Unicoi County commission hears about possible large expenditures.

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 28, 2018 at 4:45 PM

ERWIN — Already faced with a budget deficit equal to a more than a 50 cent property-tax hike, Unicoi County commissioners received reports of a couple of new large expenditures Monday.

First was the pending sale of the CSX property that could force a move of the county's largest solid waste collection site and a state recommendation to close and replace a bridge in the Temple Hill community.

Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch presented the commission with a report on the uncertain fate of the Hoover Solid Waste Collection Site, located on North Industrial Drive near downtown Erwin, with a request for the commission’s authorization for him to enter negotiations for a purchase of the property.

Lynch said he recently learned of CSX’s pending sale of an eight-acre tract that includes the approximate one-acre solid waste site through a zoning inquiry made by an out-of-state logging company that is negotiating a purchase of the property.

When contacted about a first option to purchase included in the county’s decades-old lease agreement with CSX, Lynch said railroad officials granted the county the first option for an “all or nothing” purchase of the entire eight acres at a cost of $25,000 per acre.

Lynch said CSX also inquired about the county’s interest in purchasing the county Little League field, also located on CSX property, for $25,000.

Noting the expense and the difficulty of moving a solid waste collection site, Lynch requested the commission authorize him to initiate a survey and an environmental study of the property and to enter negotiations to purchase the property from CSX for its purchase for an amount up to $250,000.

“If we don’t do this, it’s my understanding (the logging company’s purchase) is a done deal. The railroad is interested in divesting some of its property. We’re fortunate we found out,” Lynch said.

Commissioner Gene Wilson was one of several commissioners who expressed reservations about spending $250,000 for a dump site that is believed to be contaminated.

Wilson said the property contains an oil pit, a swamp and an area where more oil has spilled on the ground around a oil recycling container on the solid waste collection site.

Lynch told the commission the state has also instructed the county to remediate yet another environmental problem on the property caused by a solid waste site trash compactor that is spilling liquid on the ground.

The commission voted to have its Building and Grounds Committee members walk the property and come back to the commission with a recommendation.

Road Superintendent Terry Haynes also had startling news for the commission. Haynes said he received a call from the Tennessee Department of Transportation at 5:30 p.m. on Monday instructing the county to close its bridge over Tumbling Creek in the Temple Hill community.

Haynes said that three beams beneath the bridge are “rusted out and gone,” that he has been monitoring its stability nightly since it was inspected, and that he plans to begin work shoring it up Tuesday.

Haynes said he advised the state of a replacement method he has used successfully on other deteriorated bridges in the county and the state agreed for him to proceed, saying TDOT inspectors would return to the Tumbling Creek bridge in two weeks.

He said the replacement method he has been using is a quick fix that is approved by Virginia. If TDOT goes along with it, Haynes said he can replace both bridges for $125,000. If not, he said the contracted cost of replacement could run as high $1.2 million.

Worse yet, Haynes said the Tumbling Creek bridge provides the only access in and out for residents of that area and a second bridge in the Temple Hill area is just as bad.

In a much lighter note in Monday’s meeting, Charles Curtis, director of the Tennessee County Commission Association, surprised Commissioner Kenneth Garland with the presentation of a TCCA Certificate of Recognition for his 20 years of service on the County Commission.

Garland’s fellow commissioners and those in attendance at the meeting honored him with a standing ovation following the presentation and a small reception after the meeting.

 

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