In what has become an election-year tradition in Clarksville-Montgomery County, Leadership Clarksville and the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce jointly hosted a political forum recently that saw the three candidates for county highway supervisor go head-to-head.
Those candidates, Jeff Bryant, Stayton Black and Bryan Knight, fielded questions in the forum held at the Customs House Museum auditorium about job qualifications, county growth, and how roads and bridges must keep pace with that growth.
Bryant, Black and Knight are on the election ballot on Aug. 6 to replace Mike Frost as highway supervisor. Frost chose not to seek re-election.
The county Highway Department, with more than 70 employees, oversees all of the county-owned roads and bridges, encompassing over 750 miles of roads in Montgomery County.
With estimates of about 90,000 new residents coming to Montgomery County over the next 20 years, and many of the newer residents expected to move into rural areas outside of the existing Clarksville city limits, highway supervisor candidates feel that preparations for the growth and its potential toll on the road system need to begin now.
“The department needs to step up now, and start planning, with the Planning Commission … to find out where these areas are going to explode in growth, so they can get a plan in line and appropriate the money needed to facilitate the increase in population,” Black said. “You need to get ahead of the game.”
Knight added, “I’d like to work with the mayors and the county commission to see where the growth is going to come from, to try to ensure there are funds for some road widening. We’ve got a lot of roads that need to be widened and anything we can do now will make it better for the residents.”
Bryant said his engineering experience would serve the Highway Department well. “I’ve had that experience working with the city Street Department, and once I become highway supervisor that focus transfers to the county. I’ll work with the mayors, school system and Planning Commission to identify areas of need where the roads are going to need to be … whether it be new roads or road widening.”
Knight said county-owned bridges are a major problem. “I’ve got some pictures that the public would probably not want to see. A lot of bridge structures underneath have holes rusted in them. We’ve got to get our bridges back in better shape. And we have several roads that need redoing,” he said.
Bryant also said the road structure is problematic. “Our roads are falling apart and causing us to repave our roads more often. We need to make sure we’re building new roads that can hold a lot longer and handle that increase in traffic that’s expected.”
In essence, Black thinks roads aren’t keeping pace. “The growth throughout the county has outgrown the infrastructure of the county roads, and there are a lot of roads that need to have some serious work done to them. It’s all about the money, and if you don’t have the money you can’t do it. So, as a highway supervisor … we’re going to have to figure out how to stretch our tax dollars and make it go further for the roads in Montgomery County.”
Moderator for the political forum was Van Stokes. Panelists asking the candidates questions about the Highway Department and their positions on various timely topics in that department were Jimmy Settle, Lee Erwin and Jay Albertia.
Rick Goodwin Productions filmed the political forum.
You can view the entire political forum here.
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