By Jim Young
A majority of the Crossville City Council voted to move forward with two additional sections of the Northwest Connector project over the objections of councilmen Pete Souza and Jesse Kerley.
Currently under construction by the Tennessee Department of Transportation is section one of the three section road artery to the north and west of Crossville. When completed, the full three sections would stretch from Sparta Hwy. at Tennessee Ave. across Hwy. 70 to Northside Drive and then across Hwy. 127 N. along Interstate Dr. to Genesis Rd. The city previously signed an agreement with TDOT, agreeing to pay for engineering and right of way acquisition and TDOT funding the road construction.
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III said he felt the new road would become the “restaurant row of Crossville.”
The city's agreement with TDOT shares costs of the project at approximately 80-20 percent. During discussion it was pointed out that currently such TDOT road agreements share costs at closer to 50-50, if that, and the city has a good position. According the City Manager David Rutherford, the city needs to pay for engineering and acquire right of way for section two while right of way acquisition and utility relocation is required for section three.
The city has received a proposal for the required engineering work on section two from Gresham Smith and Partners for $353,000.
A motion to approve moving forward with the project was made by Councilman Danny Wyatt and seconded by Councilman George Marlow.
Souza said he would rather see the money spent on the downtown project and an indoor recreation enter. Souza said he would like to see the matter tabled for further discussion at a work session.
Rutherford said he felt that the acquisition on section three was 18 months in the future and it would take about two years for the engineering to be completed on section two.
Before he voted, Graham said he had no ownership interest in the property but his cousin Bill Graham owned much of the property along section two of the project. Previously, Graham had acted as trustee for a trust that held some of the property but, according to discussion, that trusteeship has since expired.
Souza commented he believed Graham had purchased property in the area of the proposed road and later quit claimed it to his cousin. Souza said he was not saying Graham had done anything illegal but criticized the fact there was no record of disclosure.
Graham said Souza's comment was inaccurate and explained he had acted only as trustee on behalf of the trust for his cousin.
City Clerk Sally Oglesby said she had researched most of the property at the courthouse along section two and three going back some 30 years and only found information about the Bill Graham trust and no ownership of any property by the mayor.
The vote on the motion to move forward with the Norhtwest Connector project was Graham, Wyatt and Marlow voting in favor with Souza and Kerley voting against. The motion was approved.
During the council meeting, the city recognized the hard work of the three members of the charter review committee, Lanny Colvard, Ted Meadows and Randy Graham, who recently completed their work. The three men were awarded plaques of appreciation and a gift basket to thank them for their efforts.
Graham said he wanted the three men to know “how much the mayor's office and the entire city council appreciated your work.” The mayor described their work as very diligent and thorough as they worked on the city charter review. Their work on the charter was approved by the city council and has been sent on to the Tennessee General Assembly for approval.