|A bill to overrule the Tennessee Department of Transportation in favor of a local manufacturer advanced through a key state Senate committee Wednesday.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 6-4 to advance a bill that would grant Barrett the right-of-way needed to widen and extend Miller Lane. In total the legislation will give the firearm manufacturer 0.63 of state land next to Interstate 24.
In March, the amendment passed the Senate Transportation Committee with a 9-0 vote and had to pass the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee before heading to the Senate floor. A companion bill in the state House has stalled.
In 2009, Ronnie Barrett, owner and founder of the company, filed suit against Rutherford County and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, alleging TDOT’s refusal to widen Miller Lane near Epps Mill Road has cost the company.
In 2004, Barrett Firearms received a $40 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to produce the company’s .50-caliber rifles for U.S. military snipers in Iraq.
The company’s current 20,000 square foot facility and 60 employees were unable to complete the contract without a 48,000 square foot expansion and the addition of 50 employees.
Barrett proposed extending the Rutherford County road at the company’s expense. The extension required TDOT to move a fence adjacent to I-24.
After Barrett completed the 48,000-square foot plant expansion for $4.1 million of Barrett Firearms, TDOT changed its position on the extension of Miller Lane.
In order to access land for a needed plant expansion, Barrett proposed extending Miller Lane, next to Interstate 24 and in the beginning TDOT agreed to the plans. But after an initial assessment from TDOT engineers, the study found storm water issues and fears of possible flooding.