by Jeff Woods
We've been pestering the state Transportation Department to talk about this little embroglio involving Ronnie Barrett, the Murfreesboro maker of humongous guns, and all his political friends in the legislature. But TDOT has refused to comment, citing the old excuse that there's pending litigation. So naturally Pith in the Wind, tireless advocate of the people's right to know, made requests under the state's open records law for the whole damn TDOT file. We're looking at it now.
Whoa! What's this on the very top of the pile of documents? Why, it's a letter from House Speaker Kent Williams to Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely on behalf of Barrett. "My hope is that we can reason together to resolve this issue," Williams writes on Jan. 28.
He suggests that TDOT cave in to Barrett's demands and grant easement along I-24 to extend a road to his ammo factory. As you know, certain legislators have amended a bill to force TDOT to do just that. It would specifically benefit Barrett---big campaign contributor, boyfriend of Rep. Donna Rowland, R-Murfreesboro, and winner of the NRA's coveted Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award.
"I have been asked by my colleagues representing Rutherford County to write you regarding a right of way issue in the district," Williams tells Nicely.
[Let us interject here briefly to point out that these lawmakers are so smart to apply pressure on behalf of a political pal through Williams. This way, the media can't say that they are doing what they are doing. We have been outfoxed again, and we tip our hats to these crafty lawmakers whose names are probably Jim Tracy, Joe Carr, Donna Rowland and Bill Ketron.]
"If we consider what is in the district's best interest for economic development and growth, I think the issue can be resolved," the House speaker writes and goes on to cite national security concerns. You see, Barrett makes this giant rifle for the Army, therefore, TDOT should succumb to his every demand regarding this right of way along the interstate.
"It is easy to understand how this issue is being taken up by our citizens as a source of pride and patriotism," Williams continues. "As this is an asset to the development of national security programs, it is in our best interest to allow Rutherford County and Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. to make the building accessible."
In response, Nicely is undeterred. He points out that TDOT offered alternate routes for Barrett's access road but that he has stubbornly refused to back down. Barrett wants the road to go where he says it should go, despite flooding that a TDOT study shows that route would cause.
"Barrett Firearms has been unwilling to entertain any option for access other than the one they proposed," Nicely writes. "The department has been very consistent in our position with Barrett Firearms."
Now, let's see what else we can find in our stack of public records. Stay tuned.