Downtown mobility plan gains City Council approval

Published 4:01 pm Friday, November 10, 2023

Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
After deferring a vote in September and holding a workshop in early October, Elizabethton City Council members unanimously approved the proposed Downtown Elizabethton Community Mobility Plan. The plan was developed through a $175,000 Tennessee Department of Transportation grant, the receipt of which was dependent upon the plan’s adoption.

City Manager Daniel Estes explained that at this point council members were only approving a “visioning and planning document.” The city is not bound to it “verbatim,” nor does the action allocate funding for improvements or strategies found within the plan.

“It does not bind specific council to it, to the ‘t.’ It’s a planning document trying to see ‘what could be,’” Estes said. “And as we move forward, with the opportunities and it’s going to take – unless manna falls from heaven, and we do something outrageously great – it’s going to take us quite some time to get portions of this bitten off at times to make this happen.”

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WSP USA, a subsidiary of WSP Global Inc., a Canadian consulting firm, conducted a study that included an online survey of 376 business owners, and city residents. The survey was promoted on social media sites and during a public open house held Jan. 24 at The Coffee Company. The event was attended by about 25 people from the community, TDOT, city representatives, and local business owners. Feedback during that event included confusion at Elk Avenue’s “curve and merge,” the public’s desire for more restaurants, diverse retail, art, bike lanes, walkability, reduced vacancies, residential spaces, sidewalk cafes, and landscaping.

Improvements and strategies in the WSP plan include:

— transitioning downtown’s one-way streets to two-way streets;
— adding a landscaped median to Elk Avenue through downtown;
— intersection improvements;
— raised crosswalks;
— dedicated bicycle lanes;
— directional signs for parking; and
— various beautification projects.

Estes has said there are also plans to connect the Tweetsie Trail with the city’s linear trail system.

HOMEOWNERS’ COMPLAINT

During the public comment period, Gary and Martha White, of 2301 Eagle Drive, renewed an ongoing complaint concerning the curbing in front of their house, a complaint that had been brought before the council during its May meeting. At this meeting, the Whites handed out a handwritten letter and photos explaining the complaint, which involved the repaving of the road, the impact it had on the original curb, and the city’s attempt to fix a neighbor’s drainage problem by installing a new curb in front of the old curb, which she called a “very bad idea.”

“We have lived with this bad idea for 25 years,” she said. “We are asking you to fix this correctly.”

Elizabethton Street and Sanitation Manager Danny Hilbert told council members he had followed up with the city manager, City Attorney Roger Day, and the homeowner concerning a possible solution.

“Our suggestion was to cover the old curb with dirt,” Hilbert said. “You cannot take that old curb out. If you take the old curb out it’s got gutter on it, curb and gutter when it was poured. So, if you take that old curb out you’re going to bust the gutter, which goes up under the (newer) curb that you see there now.” Hilbert said he told the homeowner the city would cover it with dirt, fill the void, then slope it down, and sow grass, but the homeowner does not want that done.

After about 30 minutes of back-and-forth discussion, Estes told the council, “We’ll be happy to take it up to try to find a satisfactory answer,” at which time Gary White said, “I’ll tell you right now you have 30 days. I’ve got a lawyer in Knoxville that’d love to do it.”

OTHER ACTIONS

— Approved amending the contract with River Restorations of Carbondale, Colo., to account for an economic impact study at a cost of $40,320. The study will be conducted by Southwick Associates, of Fernandina Beach, Fla.

— Deferred action on a resolution to approve an agreement with McGill and Associates for Covered Bridge Park improvements.

— Approved a memorandum of understanding between the Elizabethton Police Department and the Knoxville Police Department for participation in the Internet Crimes Against Children program.

— Approved the opening of a money market savings account at Carter County Bank for the General Fund.

— Approved on first reading amending the 2023-2024 budget regarding the infield playing surface at Joe O’Brien Field. The estimated cost of the project is $458,714, which is shared in equal amounts of $152,905 by the City of Elizabethton, Boyd Sports, and the Elizabethton City Schools. The amendment was needed to account for the city’s share of the cost, which is an increase to the Parks and Recreation capital outlay expenditures and is taken from the Unassigned Fund Balance.

— Approved on first reading an amendment to the 2023-2024 General Fund regarding the Rural Violent Crime Reduction Initiative Grant, which requires no local funds and will be used for 10 Automated License Plate Readers for a period of two years; upgrade the video recording system in interview rooms to the same system used for body-worn and in-car cameras; purchase a storage server for additional video evidence storage; and purchase a 3D crime scene laser scanner system. The grant amount was $150,000; however, only $63,125 had been spent as of June 30.

— Approved an agreement to participate in the Seven States Middle Mile Network, which would connect all participating local power companies together, and eventually TVA, by using existing fiber optic lines where available and require the local power companies to construct new fiber optic to complete the network build. This agreement states that Elizabethton Electric will pay $1,500.00 per month for 36 months for a total of $54,000.00 to cover the internal and external design costs.

— Approved a resolution for items to be declared surplus and sold on the online auction site GovDeals. The Purchasing Department has pre-loaded those items on the site and the auction is set between the dates of Nov. 13-Nov. 29.

— Authorized off-duty Elizabethton Police Department officers to work Junior Cyclone Basketball Club events on Saturdays during the club’s season from November through February 2024. Under a Special Duty Police Service Agreement, the city will be reimbursed for the cost of the personnel: $40 an hour for each officer providing services. There is a minimum of four hours for each officer.

— Approved the city’s agreement with Carter County Emergency Communications District for police and fire dispatch for the fiscal year 2023-2024 at $241,115, which was included in the current fiscal year’s budget.

— Accepted a $2,800 Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board Grant awarded to Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library in October. The grant will be used in digitizing local church and community cookbooks and the digital copies will be added to the library’s growing online archive. The grant amount exceeded what was budgeted for 2023-2024 and the library requested a budget amendment to cover the difference.

— Amended the budget to include a Technology Grant (TECH) funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives. In September, the Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library was awarded $2,376, for a total grant project amount of $4,752. The funds will be used to purchase new desktop computers and monitors for patron use. The grant amount exceeded what was budgeted for 2024 and the library requested a budget amendment to cover the difference.

— Approved the purchase of a 2025 Mack Chassis with Heil DP Python Automated Side Loader Garbage Truck at a cost of $464,415.98, which will be taken from the 2024-2025 Sanitation Fund. The request noted, “The manufacturing of this type of vehicle is currently in low production due to supply chain issues. In order to receive this vehicle in the requested fiscal budget year, a letter of intent is requested by the vendor, Stringfellow Inc., to put the City of Elizabethton on the production list.”

— Approved the purchase of three all-wheel drive Ford Maverick pickups for the Elizabethton Electric Department from Ford of Murfreesboro at a total cost $80,487. The vehicles have been approved for purchase in the 2023-2024 fiscal budget.

— Approved the purchase of a four-wheel drive Ford F150 for the Elizabethton Electric Department from Ford of Murfreesboro at a cost of $46,034. The vehicle has been approved for purchase in the 2023-2024 fiscal budget.

— Approved the appointments of McKenna Marr and Kelsey Frazier to one-year terms on the Library Board.