Hwy. 96 turn lane into Burns’ new park discussed

By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published April 11, 2014

The school board will “take action” during their April 24 meeting on the Burns mayor’s request for $400,000 to build a Highway 96 turn lane into the town’s new ballpark complex, Tim Potter told Burns commissioners Monday evening.

“I’m going to persuade the board to take action on your request at our (April 24) meeting,” Potter said.

Potter serves as the Burns municipal attorney and the school board chairperson. He updated the Burns commissioners during their regular meeting Monday about the school board and county’s latest schools development discussions.

Potter recalled a meeting last fall with Burns Mayor Landon Mathis, school board attorney Jack Garton, county Mayor Bob Rial and county attorney Brian Ragan at Potter’s law office.

Mathis argued then for $400,000 from the school board to build the turn lane, Potter explained; and Rial described his plan to “roll off” the county’s debt service in or around 2017.

Rial asked that schools officials create a list of priority projects. “Because of that, your request was put on hold,” Potter told Mathis.

Schools officials solicited input from architectural firms in compiling the priority list, Potter continued, and “we had a work session or two.” Schools Director Dr. Danny Weeks presented that list, which included a Burns middle school, to the county commission in March.

Based on the priority list, Rial unveiled his “Cooperation Project” to the school board March 27, recommending the county and schools system partner for $8 million in school security upgrades and facility maintenance. The county mayor “anticipates and supports” a Burns middle school by 2020, Potter noted.

“I’m optimistic it’s going to happen, and in light of that the turn lane makes a lot of sense,” Potter said.

Rial earmarked $500,000 in his “Cooperation Project” proposal for a Highway 96 turn lane into the new Burns park adjacent to Stuart-Burns Elementary School, and neighboring the likely site of a future Burns middle school.

Potter, who would abstain from voting on the turn lane funding because of the conflict of interest, explained a turn lane is “necessary” for a school at that site.

“I hope you appreciate the school board’s perspective,” Potter continued, “because we’ve already contributed money, partially for a road and pump station and done some things out there.”

Before they contribute more money, the school board wants to know if the school will be built and where it’ll be located, Potter added. If the proposed site will house a school, is the land large enough to support athletic facilities, he asked, or is there a better site elsewhere.

“To me it’s a logical step to put the school there,” Potter said. “We know it’s an area of the county where the growth is.”

Burns Commissioner Bill Allen suggested the commissioners complete the new park complex without a turn lane.

“I appreciate your effort sir, but over the time it’s taken here, right now I’m under the opinion we just shouldn’t take your money, and drive on with the field without a turn lane,” he said.

The school board has expressed interest in using the park’s athletic facilities for the middle school, including a football field documented in the park’s master plan. Mathis has told the school board the town doesn’t need the football field and wouldn’t build it, unless they helped pay for the required turn lane.

Both parties want a joint-user agreement for the park’s athletic facilities, but have yet to vote on an agreement. Garton prepared a user agreement draft in October, pledging $400,000 from school board for the turn lane in exchange for a football field and park land not being used by the town.

The draft agreement established a deadline to complete the football field; gave the school board priority use of that facility; and access to the park’s other athletic fields and unused park land intended for a soccer field/practice field.