Thursday’s meeting of the Murfreesboro City Council included a long-anticipated vote on an Airport Layout Plan which has taken over a decade to staff and consultants to complete.
The vote was delayed in June by improper timing of a the necessary public hearing, and was deferred again last week when the council decided to hold off on discussing the matter until Councilman Shane McFarland, who was celebrating the birth of a child, could be present.
At that meeting, Councilman Toby Gilley publicly recognized McFarland as the swing vote.
“Welcome and congratulations, Councilman McFarland,” Mayor Tommy Bragg said jokingly when the agenda item arose.
“I read in the Daily News Journal that I’m the swing vote,” McFarland said. “Out of any issue I have ever dealt with on planning commission or city council, this is the one that I have agonized about the most.
“I’ve gone back and forth on the issue several times, and thanks to Mr. (Scott) Broden’s article folks have set their sights on me for multiple phone calls,” he added.
McFarland said his major concern was the future direction of the airport.
“I don’t want the airport to get to where 25 or 30 jets are taking off per day,” he said.
Councilman Eddie Smotherman recommended moving the airport outside of town.
“But if we move it 10 or 12 miles out of town, then we already have the Smyrna airport there,” he said. “The economic impact has been overstated.”
Councilman Ron Washington motioned to approve the airport expansion proposal, Councilman Doug Young seconded, and the proposal failed by a 4-3 margin.
Those voting no were McFarland, Smotherman, Gilley, and Councilwoman Madelyn Scales-Harris.
Bragg, Washington, and Young voted in the affirmative.
Bradyville Pike facelift deferred
The council considered a proposal by Transportation Dana Richardson to award a contract to Neel Schaffer for designing improvements to Bradyville Pike.
The road is an older state route that has large ditches instead of shoulders and Richardson indicated plans are to widen it to three lanes with bike lanes, gutters and sidewalks.
In 2008, the city requested TDOT improve the roadway after the road came into the spotlight following the death of 11-year-old Lakeisha White of Hopkinsville, Ky., who died after Detective Sgt. Ron Killings struck the child with his sheriff’s car. In 2009, TDOT installed signs and realigned the lanes on Bradyville Pike to make it safer for pedestrians and drivers.
According to Richardson, his department has acquired a funding contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation that will bring the city’s cost of the improvements to $1.8 million
Richardson requested awarding of the contract totaling $999,833.84, and said the project has been part of the city’s long range thoroughfare improvement plans for quite some time.
“Are there any local firms that could have done this design?” asked Bragg.
Richardson responded that there certainly were, “but state and federal funds require a much different process. Consultant evalutation committee considers bids turned in by design firms.”
“I’m sure Neil Schaeffer is a wonderful firm, but we have local firms that need business too,” Bragg countered, and McFarland echoed Bragg’s concerns.
Richardson reiterated that state and federal monies require a much different process for consideration and acceptance of bids, and recommended approval of the contract.
But silence fell upon on the council when Bragg asked for a motion.
Lyons soon interjected that staff could provide further information on the bidding process and the other competitive bids.
Bragg agreed that would be a good idea, and suggested deferring consideration of the contract with Neil Schaeffer until the council could review the information.
Washington made such motion, Young seconded, and the matter was deferred by unanimous vote.
Rover gets western route
Richardson then detailed changes to Rover bus routes throughout the city.
The Rover bus system currently operates six buses for eight routes, and Richardson said the western portion town beyond interstate 24 currently has no bus access.
The new plan will add a western route and change the route on Mercury Boulevard to a one-hour route rather than its current half hour.
The changes will be cost and revenue neutral, according to Richardson.
“My only worry is with the changes to a one-hour route in these high ridership areas,” Bragg asked. “Will you re-evaluate periodically based on public input once the changes are made?”
Richardson indicated he would.
“We get many calls per day,” he said. “We’re glad to take those.”
City looks to infrastructure grant for Metal Max
Engineering Director Chris Griffith requested preliminary approval to seek state FastTrack infrastructure grants, for which Metal Max LLC on South Church Street recently applied, in order to improve right of way access onto South Rutherford Boulevard’s elevated roadway.
Metal Max is expected to expand operations from 35 employees to nearly 200 at the proposed site.
FastTrack grants are part of a state and local partnership program, which provides municipalities significant infrastructure grants for economic development projects.
The recommendation passed unanimously.