The County Commission on Wednesday voted 7-2 to approve the county's participation in a major new downtown freeway beautification project.
Commissioners Tim Boyd and Greg Martin voted against the county agreeing to spend $62,500 per year for maintenance of a mass new installation of trees, blue iris, day lilies and wildflowers along the redesigned U.S. 27.
Commissioner Boyd said nearby businesses should be paying for the maintenance, saying, "It's their front door."
Judge Neil Thomas said the private sector will be matching the city and county maintenance contributions. The City Council voted earlier to join in the project.
He said without the county participation, the project would not go forward.
Judge Thomas said his group has an excellent working agreement with TDOT. He said TDOT initially was going to put $1.9 million into the project and ended up at $2.2 million.
The installation was designed by the Ragan Smith group of Nashville.
Commissioner David Sharpe, whose district covers the location, initially said he had much difficulty approving it in light of the current virus situation. He questioned whether a decision could be delayed. Judge Thomas said that would kill the project. Later, Commissioner Sharpe made the motion for approval.
Commissioner Boyd said he understood statements by Judge Thomas that the project would be an economic boost. However, he said similar freeway beautification projects "seem to wilt and go away."
Judge Thomas said the state considers the project a model for the rest of Tennessee. He said Memphis is interested in copying it.
He said future beautification sites include Exit 1 of I-75 at East Ridge and the exit to Enterprise South Industrial Park.