Loudon County Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson stayed for the Budget Committee and Commission Monday Jan. 24th workshop meeting missing a Lenoir City Council meeting where he serves on Council. 

Simpson shared some surprising information. Just four months into his new job, and it's looking like the Highway Dept. budget is expecting a shortfall and he would need the Budget Committee's cooperation. Sometime before the end of the budget cycle he would return and want the Budget Committee to recommend more funds to operate his department's budget. 

The Loudon County Highway Fund 131 came up for discussion once again. The Budget Committee is comprised of Chair person Estelle Herron, and Commissioners Don Miller, Bob Franke, Sharon Yarbrough and Austin Shaver.

Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson returned to the conference table, this time with his secretary Charlotte Waller, whom he referred to as my “right arm.”  Don’t ask a budget question if she’s not around chuckled Commissioner Bob Franke. Ms. Waller is the daughter of Don Palmer, former Loudon County Road Superintendent who retired after 24-years. 

As Budget Commissioner Austin Shaver reviewed his budget sheets he commented I can’t imagine why we needed so much salt.

I think that I was cursed replied Eddie Simpson as everyone laughed. This year's weather has been extremely cold with more than usual snowfalls. 

Does anybody have any questions asked Budget Chair Estelle Herron?

Simpson informed the Budget Committee of a federal mandate to change out signs. Simpson has to have a plan in place by 2012 and start changing out signs. He estimated the cost around $300,000.

According to Simpson, Loudon County makes their own signs and he wanted to spend money ($8,000) on a plotter and “other” equipment. Commissioner Austin Shaver asked how many signs did that impact? Do you remember Simpson asked Waller; Waller replied about 689 stop signs. Two signs by road and she estimated about 35,000. Simpson said that he was selected by the Street Superintendent Association (Tennessee County Highway Officials Association) to serve on the board and that he and his assistant had attended a meeting last Tuesday (Jan 18th). We were the Number 1 State to send “Opposition” to that mandate relayed Simpson.  

Any government entity that has accepted federal funding will be required to change out signs with high visibility signs. All regulatory and advisory signs must be replaced by 2015 and all street name signs by 2017. If government entities fail to meet the deadline, they could lose the chance for future federal funding. Also, failing to put in new signs could expose that government entity to tort liability with anyone that has an accident.

While I’m talking can I talk about the “Salt” asked Simpson. Commissioner Austin Shaver replied and I like it; everyone laughed.  

Simpson explained that his department had transferred so many line items this year to make his budget balance, with zero money left. We have “Milked” pretty much everything that we have, added Simpson. 

Simpson spoke about concentrating on replacing tiles for the first four months since being elected to office as road superintendent.

His personnel had done a good job but this leads up to “We’re going to have a shortfall.”

At some point, we’re going to have to come to Commission and ask for some type of help and amend the budget.

So far, $70,000 had been spent on “salt and overtime” and a loss of $30,000 in mineral tax (revenue); that’s $100,000 Simpson told the Budget Committee.

Simpson ended by telling the Budget Committee that he hoped that they would support him so he could continue to provide service.

The budget amendments were approved except for the $4500 blinking light expense. BUDGET COMMITTEE - PASS

This recommendation goes to the full Commission for a vote on Feb. 7th. 

(NOTE: Purchasing Director Leo Bradshaw informed the Purchasing Committee that Eddie Simpson had turned in his Crown Victoria and that it would be sold as surplus. There was no mention as to replacement so in a follow-up question to the Purchasing Dept. I learned that a new 4-wheel drive Ford Explorer was purchased in November 2011 for the Highway Dept.)