City school board OKs resolution supporting multimodal access grant

Published 12:52 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler

On Thursday night, Elizabethton City Board of Education members gave unanimous approval to a resolution supporting a Tennessee Department of Transportation multimodal access grant to extend sidewalks along the north side of a stretch of West Elk Avenue.

The grant would be used to construct nearly 4,000 feet of “missing link” sidewalks on West Elk Avenue, from the entrance to Sycamore Shoals State Park to the intersection of Patriot Drive/Bemberg Road. The project would also include ADA-compliant ramps, pedestrian signals (Ped-Heads), and crosswalks at intersections.

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A state grant of $1,187,500 would fund 95 percent of the project, while the city’s match would be the remaining $62,500. The application deadline for the grant is July 15.

Before the vote, Dr. Richard VanHuss, director of schools, encouraged the school board to support the grant application, saying improved crosswalks and a sidewalk on the north side of Elk Avenue would improve pedestrian safety, especially when there are events at the school.

City Council gave its unanimous support to applying for the grant during its regular meeting on June 13. The resolution failed to gain support from the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission during a regular meeting on June 6. Commissioners declined to move for or against the resolution when it came up on the agenda, thus sending it to the City Council without a recommendation.

“Bottom line was the math,” City Council Member Michael Simerly told school board members Thursday night. A 5 percent match on a $1.2 million safety project “was not really much of a decision.”

“But again, the biggest thing we looked at, too, is safety,” Simerly said. “There’s only one cross currently on Elk – and it’s down at the hospital – and we do need at least another crossing.”