Fort Payne gets update on ongoing projects

Improving sidewalk ramps in downtown Fort Payne to more easily accommodate people with mobility issues is a priority project the Fort Payne City Council wants to address.

The Fort Payne City Council got an update on numerous ongoing projects, including the effort to improve downtown sidewalks and traffic signals.

The council authorized Ladd Environmental Consultants, Inc. to apply for Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) federal funding intended to improve mobility, accessibility, including infrastructure projects to improve non-driver access to public transportation and enhance mobility while reducing vehicle emissions.

Ladd engineer and owner James Payton said the city aims to target sidewalks between Third Street and Eighth Street downtown for $780,000 in upgrades. The city’s matching funds for the project are $243,400, which also covers the design, he said. The city will assume the cost of maintaining any work done.

“Mayor [Larry] Chesser has also talked to ALDOT [Alabama Department of Transportation] because some of the problems have been caused by the way paving was done and kept up,” Payton said.

“All you’ve got to do is look at corners where you’ve got eight to ten inches of pavement,” added Chesser. “I felt like the state ought to have some responsibility in this. I talked to Rod [Ellis, ALDOT pre-construction engineer] at the Huntsville office, and it’s going to be very difficult to do what needs to be done without putting a bunch of pipes in. This is a pretty expensive project.”

“We’ve got to look at what we can do for $240,000-something versus what this project is going to cost. But we need to go ahead and get it turned in before July 1st or we’ll lose that funding for sure,” Chesser added.

“I think it is a worthwhile project that we need to try to do,” said Council member Johnny Eberhart, also supported by members Red Taylor and Lynn Brewer.

“We’ve been working on this since we’ve been in office,” said Brewer.

Payton also updated the council on a Fifth Street traffic signal, which has been awarded to a contractor and is under construction review by ALDOT.

Another traffic signal is in the works on 49th Street next to the new school under construction. Bidding will start June 30th, and the signal should be installed by the end of the year.

“If we can get that traffic signal up and running before the school opens up, that would be ideal,” said Council member Wade Hill. “We want everyone to get used to the turn lane we’re building and the traffic signal there before it opens.”

Payton said Ladd expects to have a recommendation on the bids at the next council meeting.

He also updated the city on the gravity sewer line from Terrapin Hills, saying a bid date can be set. A contractor for the project will likely be chosen in late July, Payton said. The project already has approval from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Eleven of 19 easements have been signed for a different gravity sewer line upgrade from WZOB to Airport Road, and Payton said it’s difficult to make contact with some property owners.

At the nearby Wastewater Treatment Plant, architectural and electrical work planned for the control building is also progressing.

Chesser added to the discussion that he secured a signed agreement for funding from the state to add turn lanes for an entrance to YS, Inc., north of the new school on Gault Ave N near 63rd St.

“We want to make sure we don’t exceed what the grant is because anything over that, we’ve got to pay for. We were allowed to change the design if needed to hold our expenses back when we thought about doing it ourselves,” he said. Payton clarified that the city would still face project design costs,” he said.

Public Works Director Tim Williams told Hill that the city would be better off contracting out the project rather than trying to do the work itself due to a lack of matching funds being required.

Hill updated the council on work at the Carden Farm, where the city is developing recreation facilities. He pointed out two uses that are not specified in the original plans: a multi-purpose field that could be used for activities such as pee wee football and a walking track around the perimeter. He said Williams has cleared some of the land.

“The way we’ve got that marked out, we can do a 5k walking trail across that property. The high school would love to have that for their cross-country sectional that they want to have here this fall,” said Hill. “That trail could be done this summer or early fall. It may be one of those deals where we have to use GPS to get it on the map for people to see this summer. If we can get it where it’s walkable, a lot of folks are wanting to get outside and walk. They walked on the golf course while it was closed and now they miss that. Once people understand that that farm is going to have so many different things that you can do, it would make a few more people that we have good things coming. A three-and-a-half mile walking track is going to be good. I know we can get a 5k around that property for races, fundraisers and just general exercise.”

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