By Duane W. Gang, The Tennessean
Wilson County is one of Tennessee's fastest growing counties, and resident J.M. Kuno sees the effects every day.
When he's not battling traffic congestion near Providence Place, he's wondering when his property will get a sewer line.
"Nobody seems to know," said Kuno, 66, a retired teacher. "That is a concern to me in terms of property values."
His 5.5 acres are just outside Mt. Juliet city limits and back up to the Breckenridge Estates subdivision.
road and bridge repairs to additional water lines and sewers, Tennessee
needs $38 billion in public improvement between now and 2015, a recently released state report shows.
Middle Tennessee, there is at least $10 billion in projects that state
and local officials deem important -- everything from road and
bridgework to a $270 million upgrade to Nashville's sewer system.
report, released by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on
Intergovernmental Relations, is mandated by state law and provides a
snapshot of what type of improvement projects are needed. The report
covers a five-year period from July 2010 through June 2015.
designed to help local officials with short- and long-term planning,
match limited funding with critical needs and increase public awareness
about a city or county's often aging network of public infrastructure.
far, transportation projects are the state's biggest need. Across
Tennessee, there are nearly 4,000 transportation and utility projects
needed totaling $19.1 billion, a 1.5 percent increase over last year's
Schools are second, with nearly $8 billion in new construction or renovations needed by 2015, a 4.3 percent jump from last year.
on the list is health, safety and welfare projects, such as sewers and
water treatment plants. Those total $7.3 billion statewide and are up
6.3 percent from the year before.
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said transportation needs are among his top concerns.
cited widening projects for state routes 109, 141 and 231. All three
are needed to keep up with the county's expanding population but also to
improve safety, he said.
"No. 1, we have to make a decision in
the county that we are going to be ahead of the growth," Hutto said. "We
have made that commitment to make sure we have proper schools built. We
have to do the same thing in transportation."
The state report, he said, helps guide the county's planners.
Orange, the chairwoman of the Wilson County tea party, said public
improvement needs are the responsibility of local government. She said
she just hopes county leaders look at each project individually and are
mindful of the costs.
"In these serious economic times, county
commissioners must prioritize projects just as a household would also do
in their own budgets -- needs versus wants," she said by email.
Roehrich-Patrick, the state commission's executive director, said the
report helps state and local officials compare what is needed to how
much money they have available to spend.
Nearly two-thirds of the
projects in the inventory are not fully funded, the report found.
Outside of school renovation and construction, the report found nearly
$30 billion in needed work. Only $10.7 billion is for fully funded
projects, according to the report.
For instance, between September
2010 and September 2012, the Tennessee Department of Transportation
issued $2.2 billion in construction contracts, spokeswoman Beth Emmons
said, far less than the overall need.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said Thursday it's important for local officials to know where they need to invest.
think every American city no matter what size needs to be constantly
investing in infrastructure," Dean said following a Nashville Area
Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting. "I think that is one of the
weaknesses exposed in our country in the last 10 years."
Nashville has put money into water and sewer projects and increased the
bonding capacity in the water department to pay for such work.
Robertson County Mayor Howard Bradley said it is also important for residents to understand the priorities.
In his county, it's roads and water.
have not had a new road constructed in 25 years in Robertson County,"
Bradley said. "We are really behind. Our ways of getting to Nashville
are really the way they have always been."
Bradley said the county is only a drought away from a water crisis.
city of Springfield is nearing the maximum amount it can draw from the
Red River, which means residents are faced with an expensive prospect of
finding a new water source, Bradley said.
Springfield's water director, said even though the city can pump up to
10 million gallons of water a day from the river, their pumping station
can only handle 8 million.
And currently, he said, the utility
uses about 5 million gallons a day, meaning as the city and county
grows, they will "be getting to the point where we will be bumping up
against" the limits.
Finding new water sources could mean working with Metro Water Services or utilities in Kentucky, he said.
top of that, the city's waste water treatment plant also faces
limitations, Lemasters said. To dispose of future waste, the city would
likely have to buy as much as 800 acres and build a land-application
Both projects are still many years off but are expensive, topping a combined $76 million, Lemasters said.
Roehrich-Patrick, the executive director of the Tennessee Advisory
Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, said the state needs reports
-- 10 since 1996 -- are helpful for rural cities and counties, which may
not have a strong capital planning operation of their own.
But she said one particular challenge is getting local officials to accurately report their needs.
experience has been that local officials are more likely not to give us
the information if they think they can't do the project," she said.
had to work really hard to explain to them this is about what you need
and not what you think you can do. What you think you can do is going to
be limited by the resources available to you and you may have needs
much greater than that and we won't know it and we won't be able to tell