NASHVILLE — Legislation that would return more than $100,000 in taxpayer funding to Scott County for bridge infrastructure improvements cleared the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday.
The County Bridge Relief Act of 2014, sponsored by state Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, changes the way the state currently manages its State Aid Bridge Grant Program, making it easier for communities to access state funds to upgrade, repair and rehabilitate bridges that have fallen into disrepair over the years.
"This legislation unlocks local money that has been sitting unused for a number of years to help aid communities with important bridge infrastructure projects," Yager said. "This will be a tremendous help, especially to our poorest counties who have a very difficult time meeting the current match required to access these funds."
Currently, a 20 percent match is required by local governments. Yager's bill would lower that match to 2 percent. He says millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars set aside for bridge repairs have gone unused because local governments cannot afford the 20 percent match.
The bill also allows local governments to provide that 2 percent match using in-kind services.
"This gives road departments the opportunity to invest sweat equity to satisfy the program's requirements," Yager said. "By doing so, it unlocks local money that has been sitting in unexpended county balance funds for a number of years that is needed to make repairs and upgrades to our state's bridges."
The 2013-2014 total of unexpended funds for all Tennessee counties was $9.5 million, Yager said. In Scott County, it was $109,068 — the highest of any county in the 12th Senatorial District, which also includes Campbell, Morgan, Fentress, Pickett, Rhea and Roane counties.
With the successful vote in the Transportation Committee, the bill moves to the Senate floor for a full vote and could be heard as soon as early next week.
The House version of the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, passed final consideration by a unanimous vote of 92-0 today (Thursday).