Commissioner replies to citizen

It has been my policy not to respond to articles in the paper; however I must make an exception to the recent article by Wayne Ellis. (The Blount Countian, Oct. 1). Mr. Ellis states, “Now this commission by a three to one vote decides to do away with the compaction test for subdivisions.”

That is wrong. If Mr. Ellis will check the minutes of the Blount County Commission, he will find that the Commission did not vote to do away with compaction tests. Repeat: we did not suspend road compaction test requirements. Rather, the Commission voted to suspend one item called “roadbed processing” until a committee appointed by the commission chairman, with input by the commissioners, could study this requirement.

Mr. Ellis may not be aware but a compaction test is required on all subdivision roads and deals with the hardness of the road. We require certified results on compaction tests taken at a minimum of every 100 feet on a random basis. This is very important and will never be changed because it relates directly to the ability of the road to withstand heavy traffic. It is a separate test, and is not a part of roadbed processing.

Roadbed processing – which has been suspended – deals with plowing up the road to a depth of six inches before it is paved. The road in question was a new road that was built in two-inch increments and compacted to a depth of nine inches. This road was in Commissioner Cochran’s district. He received a request to grant a variance on this one section. It is not unusual for the commission to grant variances to subdivision rules when we believe it does not harm the county.

Commissioner Cochran requested that other commissioners inspect the road. On separate occasions, Commissioner Bullard and I inspected it. The road had been in place for a year and did not have any potholes. (If a road shows potholes, it is an indication of improper compaction and should be plowed up and re-compacted.) After this road was worked with a grader and six inches of crusher run gravel was added as required by our rules, it passed the entire compaction test. Under these conditions, I believed it would do more harm than good to plow this road up.

My main concern on subdivision roads is improper paving that results in the road coming apart, as well as improper ditching that fails to get water off the road. I personally inspect all subdivision roads in District 4. Ninety percent of the roads where I request additional work are the result of these two problems. I think the record will show that I have been one of the strongest supporters of subdivision regulations, without regard to the developer.

I appreciate Mr. Ellis’s concern and trust he will support my effort to keep large developers from violating our subdivision regulations on issues that are far more important than this one section.

Regarding Mr. Ellis’s concern if the $15 tag fee will be spent on roads, this commission voted to request our legislative delegation to allow the voters of Blount County to decide if they want to add this fee. Our request stated that this money would be used to buy material to repair our roads and only for that. Our reason for this request was our revenues have remained even while our expenses on road materials have tripled.

Our revenue for roads comes from the state gasoline tax funds. With the exception of one fund, which can be used for public buildings, state law requires this money be spent on roads. This fund is used to pay off the jail bond and road bonds that were charged in 1996. In 2011, this fund will go back to roads. If Mr. Ellis does not agree with the tag-fee increase, he should vote “no.” This commission was proactive in recognizing a problem then letting voters decide if this was what they wanted.

Blount County is very strong financially; we have $2.5 million in reserve in the general fund and will be debt free by 2011. I would encourage everyone to be sure of the facts before making decisions.
Waymon Pitts

(Editor’s note: The Blount County Commission did not suspend compaction requirements in its subdivision regulations. Compaction requirements are in effect with no changes. The commission did suspend the roadbed processing requirement until a specially-appointed committee studies it further and makes a final recommendation on its effectiveness. Roadbed processing has nothing to do with compaction. They are two separate procedures.

Concerning the fear some citizens express about tag-fee funds being spent for purposes other than road improvements, we quote the following from the bill that provides for citizens to vote on whether to impose the fee: (House Bill 681) “Proceeds from the fees authorized by this act shall be placed in a special fund maintained by the Blount County Commission and used exclusively for the purpose of road improvements in Blount County. The proceeds may not be used to purchase equipment or for the payment of any salaries.”

According to county administrator Chris Green, the special fund created for tag-fee increase proceeds will be audited by the state auditor. As a newly-created fund, it will automatically receive priority attention. If the proceeds were used for any purpose other than that specified by the legislative act, it would be discovered by the auditor, published in the audit report, and the county would be required to reimburse the amount immediately out of the county general fund.)