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Improvements coming to Knob Creek Road

New management may jumpstart a project begun five years ago to improve the one-lane tunnel on Knob Creek Road.
Washington County and the City of Johnson City agreed in 2008 to build a five-lane overpass at the site. Initial funding of $1.26 million from the federal government paid for the design.
An additional $6 million is needed to purchase the right-of-way, with the city and county splitting the 20 percent required from the local government.
During the May 15 Budget Committee meeting, County Attorney John Rambo told members he recently received a visit from Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola regarding the project’s leadership.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is turning the administration over to the city and county, and Pindzola is requesting the county approve a new contract that designates the city as the new manager.
“I don’t know if there is any chance of additional grant money, but we will ask Phil to come to the May commission meeting to describe the project,” Rambo said. The city commission is not voting on the project until June if the county needs more time, he added.
During the Public Works Committee meeting held the day before, Highway Superintendent Johnny Deakins said he would be happy to have the city handle that responsibility.
“Is there a downside?” Commissioner Joe Grandy asked.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said the county’s commitment to the project was made five years ago, and there is no turning back. The plan is to improve Knob Creek Road to Boones Creek Road.
Grandy made a motion to recommend the change in administration to the full commission during the May meeting. Commissioner Mitch Meredith seconded the motion, which passed with unanimous approval.
How the county will cover its financial commitment for what has grown to be an estimated $17 million project is undecided.
Meredith said he didn’t realize the county was participating in the project, which prompted a question from Commissioner Ethan Flynn.
“Our credibility is at stake, but we may not know about (financial) commitments made years ago,” Flynn said.
Eldridge suggested asking the Audit Committee for ideas on including contingent liability commitments on the county’s financial statements.
Flynn made a motion to request the Audit Committee make a recommendation. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Pete Speropulos and passed on unanimous vote.