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State mandates change in airport paving plans

County mayor Larry Potter announced that work on the airport runway repaving project should begin soon, although not with the method that county officials had anticipated. The original idea behind the project was to take care of the large cracks in the runway through a process of reconstruction, where the old runway pavement would be taken up and then added back into a completely new surface. This differs from the option of simply patching existing cracks and paving over them. Although the patching job would be a temporary fix that should last up to 9 or 10 years, the reconstruction method was expected to last twice as long. In fact the runway had already been patched and resurfaced in 1990 and then had to be reworked in 2005 as even larger cracks appeared.
For this reason the commission set aside the necessary $160,000 last year to make up the required 10% of a 1.6 million dollar grant from the state. However, although county officials felt that the reconstruction method would work best for Johnson County’s airport, the Tennessee Aeronautics Division requested that bids go out for patching/resurfacing as well. Despite the fact that bids for both methods came back and were well below the initial grant amount, Chief Aeronautics Engineer Tom Burgess recently sent word that the state would be going with the more temporary resurfacing option. The reason that Burgess cited for resurfacing rather than reconstruction was that the state had done resurfacing projects before in places such as Morristown and had been met with success, but had little experience with the reconstruction option. Burgess also cited the higher cost in his decision and said that if the county were to use the money from the state grant it would have to go toward patching and repaving.
County Road Superintendent Tony Jennings came before the commission to announce that his own paving projects were going well, with repaving on Little Dry Run, Williams Road, Dry Hill, and parts of Shady Valley underway in the hope of being completed before winter weather sets in. Jennings went on to report about the county’s partnership with the city on the bank stabilization project along Furnace Creek. According to Jennings the project has brought in thousands of dollars from selling rock out of the county quarry on Highway 167. Jennings went on to say that “the quarry has already paid for itself more than once.”
There was also discussion concerning the lowering of the speed limit on Divide Road, the section of old Highway 91 turned over to the county after the construction of the new 91 bypass. The speed limit on that section of road had been 55 for many years but now that it is under county authority both Jennings and Sheriff Mike Reece announced that a number of citizens had approached them about getting it reduced. The discussion was initially to lower the limit from 55 to 45 and potentially to 35 at a dangerous intersection near the Mountain City Water Department. However several commissioners, including Mike Taylor, voiced concerns against this move. Taylor stated that he had not heard any complaints and noted that the speed limit had been 55 for decades with no problems and made a motion to keep it the same. This motion failed with only five votes but discussion continued on the issue. Sheriff Mike Reece drew attention to the fact that the speed limit on the new bypass is only 50 miles per hour and that there is no other county road with a limit above 45. Aside from the speed issue, one of the big concerns for Reece, Jennings, and School Superintendent Morris Woodring was the existence of a passing zone near the water department. The issue not only addressed incoming truck traffic but also several school bus stops in the area that make passing dangerous. A compromise was finally reached when Commissioner Bill Adams made a motion to set the speed limit on Divide Road to 50 miles per hour and to do away with the passing zone at water department. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Jonathan Pleasant and passed with only Commissioner Mike Taylor voting against.
Litter Control Officer Sandy Hammons Warren came before the commission to present awards to three young county residents for their concern and efforts at keeping the county clean. Mayor Potter recognized brothers Kody and Tyler Watson along with Taylor Parsons for their work in picking up trash and volunteering at the recycling center. These three demonstrated remarkable concern for their communities in willingly giving their time and hard work without expecting anything in return.
Discussion was held concerning the purchase of several items for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. The commission recently approved for bids to go out on new radio equipment, body armor, and a control panel for the county jail. Each of these came back and was reviewed for the commission. Purchases were approved for the radio equipment and the body armor but discussion was held on the control panel. Due to the technology involved in the purchase and a wide difference between the costs of the two bids presented, the purchase of a new panel was postponed until more information could be gathered for next month’s meeting.
County Mayor Larry Potter announced that Willie Hammons’ term on the planning commission was about to end and recommended re-appointing him for another three years. Potter stated that he had spoken with Hammons who was still interested in serving. A motion was made by Commissioner Jonathan Pleasant to accept the appointment, which passed unanimously.
The last business of the night was to finalize an agreement between the county and Ralph Stewart which would alter the county’s display policy in the courthouse and authorize Stewart to place his posters.
Commissioner Dean Stout made the motion to adjourn.