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709 roads, 188 bridges, but only $3.2 million

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 5/2/23

At last Tuesday’s Financial Management Committee meeting, road superintendent Mark Clanton wanted to “set the record straight” about current road conditions in Bedford County.

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709 roads, 188 bridges, but only $3.2 million


At last Tuesday’s Financial Management Committee meeting, road superintendent Mark Clanton wanted to “set the record straight” about current road conditions in Bedford County.

Calling out a county commissioner for giving misleading information at the last Board of Commissioners meeting, Clanton talked about the $3.2 million that the governor’s office is giving to all counties for road and bridge improvements.

“I just want everyone to know, since this is the finance committee, how that’s going to play out coming down from the governor’s office,” said Clanton.

He said that money will never go to the Finance Department to be deposited. Instead, it will go to the Bedford County Highway Department in their fund with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and can only be used for road paving and bridge repairs. Again, “This money is going to all highway departments across the state,” Clanton said.

The funds will be a 98-2 split, where the Bedford County Highway Department will have to put forth $65,000 in a matching fund to use the money. The money is to be used for roads that are on TDOT’s State Aid Road List. Only about 30 roads for Bedford County are on that list, according to Clanton.

This is out of a total of 709 roads in Bedford County.  

“We have 188 bridges the county maintains and are responsible for. All 188 bridges are on the State Aid List…So we’re going to have to out about three to four hundred thousand dollars of that money there,” said Clanton.

That leaves about $2.8 million for road paving. That money is already allotted by TDOT, according to Clanton.

“For $2.8 million, I’m going to be able to do three roads. Three roads…somewhere in the ballpark of about 14 miles. Total,” said Clanton.

Those three roads will be Nashville Dirt Road, Horse Mountain Road, and Fairfield Pike. If the $2.8 million does not cover those three roads, Clanton said he will have to get funds from the tax rate, which is $0.09 — about $1.1 million a year.

Clanton said every year until recently, the highway department has gotten $0.06 of the tax rate, which gives the department about $734,000 to $750,000 every year. “Every year I have been in office, I have spent — on road work — between $1.5 and $2.2 million a year on roads,” he said.

“It is not cheap to keep our roads,” said Clanton. “All total, we’ve got 685 miles of road that I am governed to maintain and keep up.”

If these roads are put on a 20-year repaving cycle or 20-year oil and chipping cycle, it will take over $5 million a year.

“We have not got enough money for the highway department to maintain the roads,” he said. “There is no way humanly possible to fix every single road in this county with the money that you’re allotted to use.”

The solution?

Clanton said the county needs to come up with some other kind of revenue source.

“I think every single person, every department head, every elected official, does all you can do with what you got,” said Clanton. “What I don’t like and what I don’t respect is when you out personal feelings for elected officials over this community. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”

Clanton was referring to Commissioner Diane Neeley’s comments from the April 11 Board of Commissioners Meeting regarding the highly-debated wheel tax. Neeley said, at the meeting, after reading a column written by State Rep. Pat Marsh in the Times-Gazette, “Bedford County is going receive $3.2 million under a Transportation Modernization Act. What are we going to use that money for because some of this was slated for roads?”

“I’m not throwing Commissioner Neeley under the bus. I just want to make sure that the facts are correct on why I don’t pave that road up,” Clanton said.