By Heather Mullinix
The Crossville City Council approved a budget amendment for engineering costs for a sidewalk project on Myrtle Ave. and Fourth St., but will adjust the amount of the project once actual costs for property acquisition are known.
"We feel like this is a real benefit to all of the property owners, as well as the entire neighborhood," said City Clerk Sally Oglesby during a public hearing Tuesday. "It's going to improve your property values. It's going to make it safer. It will just look a whole lot better. So, we're very hopeful, because we have no grant funds to pay for the property acquisition, that you would consider donating that property to improve your property and provide safety in the neighborhood."
Construction of the sidewalks is being funded through a federal Safe Routes to School grant, which provided $225,000 for construction and engineering and $25,000 for safety education. Property owners are entitled to be paid fair market value for the property if they choose.
The Myrtle Ave. portion will be on the north side of the road, with a gutter, curb, grass section and five foot sidewalk. The ground would then slope to connect with the existing ground level of each property. The sidewalk would begin at Fourth St. and end at Brookside Dr., just past Jacob's Crossing apartment complex. The project would also include installation of a storm sewer.
"Those deep, dangerous ditches will be filled with a storm sewer," Tim Begley, city engineer, explained.
On Fourth St., initial engineering proposed placing the sidewalk on the north side of the street, but discussion of the council favored moving the sidewalk to the south side and tying it into an existing sidewalk at the intersection of Myrtle Ave. and Fourth St. It would extend to Roberts Dr.
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said the school system transports about 60 children from the area of the proposed project to schools.
"That ditch is deep," she said. "This looks like it will make the road safer. It's not safe enough for the children to walk now."
Begley explained property owners would be responsible for maintaining the grass strip between the curb and the sidewalk once construction was complete, and the work would include returning the lawn to a vegetative state. The sidewalk would include depressed areas for driveways and the city could work with property owners that anticipate needing driveway access in the future.
And while sidewalks generally increase the value of property when it is put up for sale, Oglesby did not believe there would be a change in property tax for those properties, though that would be determined by the Cumberland County Tax Assessor's office. Because the streets are not part of a subdivision, there would be no affect on setbacks.
One problem encountered on the project was the variance in right of way along Myrtle Ave. Typically city streets have a 50-foot right of way but, on Myrtle, the right of way was 30 feet or less in some areas.
"I can't tell you where the property lines fall generically," Begley told those present. "I can tell you individually."
Preliminary property acquisition costs were estimated at $22,000 on Myrtle Ave. and $33,000 on Fourth St. Additional costs include utility relocation, surveys and any possible legal fees for property acquisition. The change in the Fourth St. location, surveys and property purchase agreements will cost $12,680. The budget amendment called for $125,000 in engineering and property acquisition costs. Another $125,000 was budgeted from grant funds for construction costs through June 30, with additional grant funds available for construction the following budget year.
City Manager Bruce Wyatt said, "That's our best estimate. We will encourage donations of property to keep the costs as low as possible."
Councilman Pete Souza moved to approve the budget amendment, saying, "This project is important for the children of this city. There are 101 different reasons to stop the project or why it won't work, but Councilman [Danny] Wyatt has done a heck of a job pushing this through."
Mayor J.H. Graham III supported the motion for discussion.
Danny Wyatt was hesitant to approve the budget amendment, however, saying he'd like to know actual property acquisition costs first.
Graham said, "We need to go ahead and do the engineering so we know how much property we're asking for when we go to talk about the property."
Graham and Souza agreed to amend the motion to reflect Danny Wyatt's request. Oglesby said city procedures would allow the city to adjust the budget amendment amount prior to the third and final reading and that approval would allow the engineering to continue. The motion was approved.