Sawmill Road extension plan expected to proceed

A project to extend Sawmill Road in Norris from its current dead end from Pine and Orchard roads to link to Norris Freeway (U.S. 441) most likely will be allowed to continue by the Norris City Council, after the council heard from residents of the area during a public meeting Monday night.

The City Council voted last week to delay a requested additional payment of $213,000 to the Tennessee Department of Transportation for purchase of right of way for the extension – at least until the council could hear from the public and decide whether to continue the project.

Mayor Chris Mitchell said the city would still be on the hook to pay the state at least $167,000 for engineering work already completed even if the council chose to abandon the project.

Because of that, Mitchell said, continuing with the extension would cost the city only about $40,000 extra.

“My impression is that I needed this [input from residents] ... and I’m convinced the need is still there,” he said during Monday night’s meeting.

Other council members echoed that sentiment, but because Monday’s meeting was not set up to allow the council to vote to make the $213,000 payment, the council indicated that it may do so during the regular meeting July 11.

Anderson County Commission Chairman Joshua Anderson, who attended Monday night’s meeting, said there may be some help available from the county to pay part of the additional cost. He recommended that the city meet with county Mayor Terry Frank to see what assistance might be available.

Council members chimed in after Mitchell voiced his support for the project.

“I’ve heard nothing but support [for the project], so I’m all for it,” said Councilman Bob Sain.

The city paid $35,000 of TDOT’s early estimated cost of $125,000 for right of way acquisition in 2019, which should have been all Norris would have had to pay for the extension.

Originally, Anderson County paid a matching amount to cover the $70,000 the state wanted in local funds to buy the property; TDOT was then expected to pay all of the construction costs of the extension.

But since the state began the process of right of way acquisition earlier this year, TDOT determined that the price for all of the required property had ballooned since the COVID pandemic began in early 2020, officials said. Of that new amount, Norris is on the hook for the $213,000, which the state wants Norris to pay immediately to keep the project going.

Residents on Pine Road have pushed for the Sawmill Road extension because it would allow trucks from the city’s industrial park area near the current end of the road to exit the city straight out to Norris Freeway next to Covenant Life Church.

st right across the highway from Cross Pike Road.

Now, those trucks must drive through the residential neighborhood on streets designed for 1936 traffic flows and vehicle sizes.

Another issue that might be causing property values to increase along the proposed route is that some of the property owners are making improvements to their property, which will raise values even more.

That includes Covenant Life Church, which has built an RV/trailer park on its property – without obtaining any permits from the city -- that is now encroaching on the part of the church land needed for the Sawmill Road extension.