By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
Commissioners on the county's budget committee told Cumberland County Highway Superintendent Scott Blaylock they would have to consider funding his request of $600,000 for the highway department toward the end of budget deliberations this year.
"There is not a county department that doesn't rely on our roads. Somewhere along the line we've got to get moved up on the priority list. The wear and tear on vehicles is bad and I'm getting calls from people threatening to sue ... these roads don't belong to me, they belong to the county. I'm just elected to maintain them. I'm asking for a piece of the pie to help fund the repairs of these roads. The rising costs of fuel and supplies is hurting us and I'm asking you to find a way to share some pennies. This isn't about me. This is about the county and getting our roads repaired," said Scott Blaylock, county highway superintendent.
"I've got to disagree with you, Scott. I know how it is over there after spending 15, 16, 17 years over there in the road department. It was set up a long time ago by the state to be funded by the gas tax. Now, why do you want to push this over onto the county commission and not onto the state?" Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner, said. "Why not go to who's responsible. Go to (Cameron) Sexton and push hard with them."
"I have been pushing with them on this issue since I came into office," Blaylock said.
"I got five phone calls on this. One was for it and the other four was against. I mean, let's call it what it is — a tax increase. There's no money there so it will take a tax increase," Harvel said.
"I'm not asking for a tax increase. I'm asking you to find some way to get us some money to put towards these roads," Blaylock said.
"Well, there's no pot of money sitting here to go to," Harvel said.
"We have to do something," Blaylock said.
"You knew what you were getting into and what the budget was when you were elected," Harvel said.
"Well, what he's saying is they're trying to get something done through the state, but he needs help now. He doesn't have time to wait on the state," said Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner.
"Look, folks, we're not voting on anything tonight. We're just listening to a presentation by the road department," said Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner and budget committee chairman.
"The road situation is serious here and the state has failed to increase the funding to the counties since 1989, and, with all the new fuel efficient vehicles, we're losing money there ... We need to get together and make our voices heard and pass a resolution and send to the state. It's critical these needs be met," said Jan McNeil, 5th District commissioner.
"The system is not working," Blaylock said.
"I agree, but I don't think we need to burden the county," Harvel said.
Former county commissioner and Cumberland County resident V.J. Dodson said he thought the county ought to figure out a way to help Blaylock until the state can increase funding.
"This county is growing, the costs are up and there's no blame on no one, but we're behind on this and he needs money to fix the roads now and can't wait. We've got a serious problem and the county is going to have to help, then we can hit the state hard," Dodson said.
John Kinnunen, 9th District commissioner, said, "We just found $6,000 for vehicle maintenance, $18,000 for service repairs. Why can't we find a way to help Scott?"
"I don't know how it got to be that the county won't have to help out. It's not just a state problem and we wash our hands of it. I think we can help, but I don't know how much," Allen Foster, 4th District commissioner said.
Susan Hensley who lives in the Wyndridge Estates area said the roads out there are creating safety hazards because of the pot holes and drivers dodging pot holes and going into other lanes.
"Most of the people do not know their property taxes aren't going to the roads. We've got some real safety issues out there that need to be taken care of with these roads. Scott (Blaylock) needs help from the county and it doesn't make sense to have to drive and live in fear over these roads," Hensley said.
Blaylock said the county could help either with a fuel tax, property tax or wheel tax.
"Any funding I get from the county is going to go to repair the roads and only for that," Blaylock said.
Commissioners agreed they would have to address the issue on a separate occasion toward the end of budget deliberations.
The highway department is scheduled to attend budget committee meeting in May to address its annual budget. A separate meeting may be planned to discuss additional funding from the county for road repairs.
If and when such a meeting is scheduled, the Crossville Chronicle will publish the meeting date.