Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

March 25, 2014

Downtown project gets axed?

Decision awaited on 3-2 vote

CROSSVILLE — The city of Crossville is waiting for an answer from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service on a 3-2 vote to reduce the scope of the downtown revitalization project to focus on waterlines and sidewalks. Meanwhile, prospective bidders are left scratching their heads, wondering if they should bother preparing a bid for the April 1 deadline for the $11 million project.

"I'm a little confused. How was the downtown project left now? I'm fixing to be working next week to get a price in for a lot of people, and I still don't know, should I work on it?" asked local contractor Skip Freitag.

Freitag noted that even if the 3-2 vote was determined to have failed, the council might not accept any bids on the project.

"When you get the bids, it takes three against to fail. Regardless where the [bids] are at, it seems to me there are three people that are against it, anyway, so why would we, as a contractor, spend our time doing it?" Freitag said.

Councilman Jesse Kerley had asked for the downtown project to be on the agenda for the special-called meeting, which followed a work session Friday afternoon on the habitat conservation plan.

"I had questions I wanted to do publicly on this," Kerley said. "I don't have a motion in regards anything going with downtown."

He asked about interest among contractors in bidding on the project as well as what would happen to about $3.5 million in grant funding.

"With the way the council decisions have been going on this, are we going to have people turn us a bid back in?" Kerley asked.

A motion to recall bids for the project at the March 11 meeting failed with a 2-2 vote. At that time, Councilman George Marlow asked the council to wait until bids were returned April 1 to see what the cost for the project would be before making a decision.

City Manager David Rutherford said, "There is still interest in the project. Now, whether they will go forward and complete the bib documents and submit a bid, I can't answer that question...I am sure, though, that discussion in the newspaper and actions by council, or discussion of actions by council, may have some folks a little bit leery about things, because it takes a lot of time to put a bid together."

Most of the grant funding would go away if the project changed, Rutherford said.

"I'm not aware of any other opportunities to use those grant dollars because those were specifically for the downtown revitalization," Rutherford said.

Kerley wanted more information about the grant funds.

"If there is stuff we could use to do some of the beautification stuff there, as well as redo some of the pipelines, the waterlines, I'd like to get that information so we can make that known," Kerley said.

Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III said there was $1.5 million in state revolving fund loans for waterline upgrades and a $300,000 grant for such a project.

However, there is a $1.65 million Tennessee Department of Transportation enhancement grant and $1 million in Economic Development Administration grants would go away.

Hwy. 127 is on the state's paving list, though. In fact, the city has been communicating with the state on the downtown project so that paving would be coordinated around the downtown project.

Councilman Danny Wyatt said he would like to make a motion on the discussion, if he was permitted to do so. Graham said, "Yes, sir."

Wyatt said, "I'd like to renew the motion that was made in the March meeting to do a waterline only and to do a three-year plan with ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] sidewalks where needed."

Graham supported the motion.

Kerley asked if the motion would take effect in the next budget year.

Graham said, "I think what's important about the motion, in my mind, is we have some areas in the downtown project that needs to be brought up to ADA standards right now. We'll do those first," Graham said.

The highest priority would be the sidewalk in front of Mayberry's Furniture, which has a large step and no hand rail.

Councilman George Marlow said, "I think your first question is going to be answered in about 10 days. We'll know exactly where we're at and we'll know what the cost is.

"I don't know why we're voting to kill half the project after spending so much time and so much money without waiting another 10 days to see where we're at."

The downtown revitalization project includes replacing waterlines in the downtown area with larger, new lines. Some waterlines in that area are estimated to be 90 years old. The project also includes redoing sidewalks to be ADA compliant, adding storm water drainage to alleviate flooding of businesses in the downtown area, and reducing infiltration and inflow of storm water to the city's sewer system. Utilities, such as power lines and phone lines, would be placed underground, new traffic signals would be put in place and new street signs installed, as well as new, energy-effecient lighting.

Councilman Pete Souza said, "To dig up the street and not do the storm water is a serious mistake."

He also questioned the need to re-engineer the plans for the water lines, which had already been completed for the downtown project as part of the $1 million the city has spent on the project.

Wyatt amended his motion to specify the waterline project would use the plans as currently engineered. City Engineer Tim Begley said the state would have to approve that plan because of the location of fire hydrants. If the rest of the project were not done, the location of the fire hydrants would have to be moved back several feet to be in the sidewalk. Otherwise, they would be in parking spaces.

Graham supported the amendment, which passed.

Souza said only 18 percent of the project addressed the aesthetics of the downtown area, though he could not recall where that number had come from, stating it was from a previous report on the cost of the project.

"The downtown people have volunteered to contribute toward that," Souza said.

"The people of Crossville, including the downtown people, have been at this for seven years trying to get something," Souza continued. "I believe the people are due a decision today. I'm going to continue to support this program. I think anything less than doing the storm water is an inadequate approach to downtown."

Kerley said he did not think the storm water issue was a Main St. issue, with drains needed on side streets.

"We've got to get our I&I issues situated and get those drains separated and make sure that water's getting out of our downtown area when it runs off Main St.," Kerley said. "Everything rolls off east and west of Main St. pretty rapid. If we don't have our drains set in place that's carrying that water out of our downtown area, it's going to back everything up. I've never been convinced this project is going to help everything when it's basically at the top of the hill."

Kerley said some of the infrastructure, such as underground utilities, could be addressed with the utility companies.

Before the question was called, City Attorney Kenneth Chadwell cautioned the council on the possible need for a two-thirds majority vote to override previous council action — the failed vote of March 11.

"In January, somebody on the council asked for an MTAS opinion about duplicative motions or rescission. MTAS came back with a lengthy written opinion on how to handle that," Chadwell said.

"I would have to see in written form some of those earlier motions and how they went down, but there is the distinct possibility it would take a two-thirds majority vote, which for us means four votes," he continued.

The MTAS January opinion stated a motion to rescind a previous vote would need only a majority vote is sufficient notice of the intent to rescind previous action. Sufficient notice is defined as "notice of the intent to make the motion, stating the complete substance of the proposed change, has been given at the previous meeting within a quarterly time interval or in the cal of the present meeting."

The agenda stated "Matters relative to the downtown revitalization project," but did not state the council would be considering rescinding or reconsidering previous action on the matter. Without that prior notice, the rules require a two-thirds vote to pass.

"If the motion is in order in the meeting, but has the effect of rescinding a prior motion, then a super-majority vote or two-thirds vote is necessary," Chadwell said.

"If you want to take action, that's fine. But what I would do is vote however you want to vote. We'll take the record on it. Give us a day or two to take a look at it and we'll get a written opinion."

The vote was 3-2, with Wyatt, Kerley and Graham voting in favor. Souza and Marlow voted no.

Chadwell also noted he served on the board of Highland Federal Savings and Loan, which is located in the project area. He recused himself from giving an opinion on the motion, but the matter was referred to MTAS for a determination.

As of press time Monday, the MTAS legal consultant had not provided the city with an answer on if the vote passed or failed.

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