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Friday, May 12, 2017

Downtown Crossville sidewalks continue to stymie council. city waiting for answers from TDOT.

The Crossville city council continues to struggle to make any progress on moving the downtown sidewalk project forward and again put off any new decision on the project waiting for details from a meeting with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).

It was also revealed at the council meeting that TDOT's timeline to repave Main Street through Downtown after being put off by the city previously could be even further delayed by around 18 months as it would not be included in the state's next fiscal years budget.
Council discusses downtown sidewalks 

In addition, the development of downtown is a consistent recommendation of the last several economic development reports including the latest report on targeted industry and workforce development prepared by Younger and Associates for the Chamber of Commerce. All of these reports indicate that the downtown is an important aspect of economic development and attracting industry to the community.
Downtown property owner Shirley Hughes

At the start of the meeting downtown property owner Shirley Hughes addressed the council on the sidewalks and expressed her unhappiness over the suggestion that property owners pay for the downtown sidewalks.  Hughes added, "I hope you all work together as I think it is important for a town to be attractive."  Hughes also told the council that her former Merle Norman store downtown would become a dinner restaurant.  
Shirley Hughes address council

Hughes reminded the council Crossville used to be known as "The top town for miles around" and she wondered what had happened to that.  

At Tuesday's regular council meeting, the item was brought back to the agenda by Councilman Scot Shanks who moved to rescind previous action by council on the sidewalks to do the work in-house and to authorize the city manager to take bids on the sidewalk improvement work including street lights as redesigned. Shanks motion was supported by Mayor James Mayberry.
City council sidewalk discussion

Shanks explained that the project would be finished faster by being bid out to a contractor rather then having city employees do the work. A contractor would take about 9 months to complete the work while using city employees is estimated to take up to three years according to Shanks. He added that this would also free up city employees to work on the other projects around the city adding, “If city employees do the downtown sidewalks I don't feel like any other sidewalks will be touched in anyway other then Main Street for that entire time.” “We need our sidewalks to ADA standards,” added Shanks, “which desperately needs to be done.”

“I don't think we realize how big perception is as far as potential industry, retirees, visitors, whatever, when people are driving through our town and we have a really attractive, vibrant downtown,” concluded Shanks, “something attracting more and more people to our downtown. I think if we have that and the perception is that all of our town is like that. And I think that it is just such a key that we take care of our downtown corridor.”

News report sponsored by Park Place Motors

Council went into a lengthy discussion of some of the previous actions and previous project estimates and came to questions about how TDOT would work on the corners that it appeared TDOT would fix. City manager Greg Wood and Tim Begley said that they had a meeting scheduled for Friday with representative from TDOT and they would find out more about what TDOT planned and their time line for fixing what they would work on.

Council woman Pamala Harris expressed concern that if TDOT would not be able to pave for some 18 months that they would not fix the sidewalks until about the same time.

Councilman Danny Wyatt questioned the estimated costs of the work compared to previous plans and engineer Begley advised the council that there was much less in the current plan then in the original plan that was part of the full downtown redevelopment. Engineer Begley described the original design as “shiny” but added “what we have now is not.” He added that there were three traffic lights removed from the project, no benches or other items that were in the original project estimated at $9 million.

As the discussion wound down councilman Shanks asked to defer his motion until the city got additional information from TDOT.

City manager Greg Wood asked the council to move forward with authorizing him to hire two full time employees for the sidewalk crew as the council had previously discussed. Wood said that the city had tried to hire two part time positions but only got a single application. Councilman J. H. Graham moved to accept Wood's recommendation and was supported by Mr. Wyatt.

Wood said the employees would be used for other sidewalks until a decision is made on the downtown sidewalk project. Council approved the motion with 4 votes in favor and Mayor Mayberry opposed at the current time.  

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