By Jim Young
Interest in the downtown Crossville improvement project remains high as a large crowd turned out for an informational forum sponsored by the city, the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Crossville, Inc.
Two questions seemed to be on the minds of those attending. How will the project affect businesses in the area and how much will it cost individual taxpayers?
City Manager David Rutherford did his best to answer questions, but said there were some things he did not yet know and that included some decisions that will have to be made by the Crossville City Council as they decide on the budget for the next fiscal year.
Rutherford said that, while all the federal agencies have signed off on the project and the contractor, the Tennessee Department of Transportation was still reviewing the details, but he expects their response soon. The most likely time line on starting the project is expected to be late March or early April.
Rutherford told the audience that, just prior to the public forum, during the council's monthly work session, he had presented the city council members with a capital improvement program document, a detailed look at projects costing more than $25,000 and with a life expectancy of more than five years. That report, almost 2 inches thick, will have to be studied by the council and used as part of their work on the upcoming 2014-'15 budget decisions.
Rutherford said the programs and projects the city is working on currently will require additional revenue, but if that revenue came from taxes or fees or a combination would be a decision of the city council.
“Will it be more expensive to live here (in Crossville)?” asked Rutherford. “A little bit,” he explained.
Two Main St. lawyers complained about the project disrupting their business. One firm, Boston and Poore, said they may consider relocating while the other, Jane Powers, was concerned about the loss of renters due to disruption from the work. She asked about any provision for “loss of revenue.” Rutherford responded that there was no liability for that from the city.
Other downtown retail business owners expressed optimism that the disruption would not be painless but they want the project for the long run and, while they definitely expect some revenue loss during construction, they are looking forward to the benefits of the project once it is complete.
The contract for work gives the contractor 545 days, about 18 months, to complete the project. At least one lane of travel on Main Street is to be maintained open during the work. While a representative of the contractor was unable to attend the meeting due to a death in his family, it is expected that as the work goes from one block to the next, large portions of Main Street should be open as usual.
Rutherford said while there will be some issues, such as access to buildings and to the businesses to be able to do business. Rutherford added that parking will be disrupted, but the city is looking into the possibility of leasing private property for public parking in the downtown area for customers and employees.
Rutherford also explained he expected the contractor would work some evenings and weekends in order to lessen the disruption and complete the work by the contract deadline.