At an open house at its new McArthur Road facility, the Blount County Highway Department welcomed the public, elected officials and area leadership to tour the recently-purchased building and officially dedicate the highway department portion as the Leonard M. Dunlap Memorial Highway Department.
Dunlap served as Assistant Highway Department Superintendant from 1970-1980, and he was elected Highway Department Superintendant in 1980 and served until his death in 1993.
“It was an honor to be able to recognize my dad for the 23 years he served our community,” said Bill Dunlap, Blount County Highway Department Superintendant. “Not only was he a great man, he performed his duties with great skill and dedication, and he inspired many people along the way. He would have been proud to have this new building named after him, and I hope that we are able to continue his legacy of service to our community.”
A resolution passed by the county commission in July officially named the highway section of the building to memorialize the outstanding public service of Leonard M. Dunlap, and it said that he “inspired many to become diligent stewards by leading and serving all people with humbleness, fairness, compassion and respect.”
Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said he knew Leonard Dunlap for many years. “Honoring him by naming the highway portion of the building after him is a fitting tribute to a great family man and friend whose service and dedication to Blount County will forever be remembered,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said he was on vacation recently and listened to a Merle Haggard CD and heard a song entitled “The Roots of my Raising Run Deep,” and he thought of Leonard Dunlap. Cunningham quoted a line from the song that said, “Dad was a quiet man, whose gentle voice was seldom heard, but he could borrow money at the bank simply on his word.”
During his tenure as highway superintendant Blount County’s roads and bridges were also recognized as some of the best maintained by the State of Tennessee.
“It’s quite obvious that the commission’s decision to take what soon would have been an empty building and turn it into the Blount County Operations Center was the right move,” said Blount County Commission Chairman Steve Samples. “One only has to look around, and you recognize that it was a positive step for the county, a wise use of tax dollars and a plus for the taxpayer.”
The building that now houses the highway department is 140,260 square feet located on 23 acres.
The new facility includes all the engineering department, accounts payable, payroll and a Geographic Information System, which is a global mapping technology that will be used to map all of the drainage structures to over lay on the county base map.
“By bringing everyone together under one roof, and with the ability to utilize modern maintenance equipment, we will have more efficient response times, and it will be easier for the public to access our services,” Dunlap said.
Bill Dunlap was appreciative of the crowd that showed up for the event. “Thank you all so much. I’m proud of this,” he said.
Dunlap thanked everyone at the county who helped renovate the facility and prepare it for the Highway Department. “Folks, we’re finally home,” he said.
There is also additional meeting and training space to handle extensive employee instruction and safety when new products and equipment are brought into the department.
The remainder of the facility will serve as a Blount County Operations Center. Officials are studying the possible relocation of various departments to this space.
The new facility cost the county $2.7 million, of which $2 million came from the $3 million sale of the former Highway Department property on Louisville Road. The additional funding came from the general debt service fund and a rental agreement with Ceramaspeed, the former owners of the property.
The Highway Department is responsible for the county’s roadway infrastructure, as well as maintenance of vehicles and equipment and the production of maintenance materials. The department maintains 834 miles of road, 120 bridges and 6,000 feet of guard rail and mows all county roads’ right of ways five times per year. Additionally, each year, the department paves approximately 25 miles of road, ditches approximately 50 miles of road and replaces one mile of pipe for drainage.
Funding for the highway department stems from a variety of sources, including state aid programs, sales, gasoline, and mineral severance taxes. For more information about the Blount County Highway Department, please visit www.blounttn.org/highway.