By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
BAXTER – The town of Baxter is making plans to de-annex the Elmore Town Road bridge area if Putnam County will take it back in, knowing that significant repairs are needed.
The bridge tops the priority list of Putnam County bridges that need replacing, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). TDOT officials recently reevaluated the bridge and have lowered its weight limit, prohibiting vehicles such as school buses from crossing the bridge. Currently, 17 students no longer have access to school bus transportation.
Baxter has already spent $24,000 on environmental tests and engineering work necessary for repairs to be done. The town was prepared to replace the bridge with a box culvert style bridge but TDOT rejected the plans. TDOT is requiring a bridge that is substantially more expensive and is beyond the ability of Baxter to afford. There are three addresses on this road that are inside the Baxter city limits and 73 that are in the county.
Baxter Mayor John Martin approached Putnam County Executive Randy Porter about the county accepting the road back as a county road so that the county can make temporary repairs to the road that will allow higher weight vehicles access to the road. If Baxter completes its de-annexation and Putnam County refuses to accept the road, then it will become a “public road” that is not the responsibility of any government agency to maintain and the bridge would further deteriorate with no source of help.
Porter presented this to the Fiscal Review Committee for consideration at its April 8 meeting. Joining him in answering questions were Martin and Putnam County Road Supervisor Randy Jones.
The committee unanimously voted to recommend to the full commission the acceptance of the area upon de-annexation by Baxter. This process will require two readings of an ordinance by the Baxter Board of Aldermen. Martin told the committee that he would begin the process of de-annexation by calling a special meeting and that the process should be completed within approximately two weeks.
This recommendation will go to the full commission at their April 15 meeting.