Work on the downtown streetscape project could soon begin as Sr. Project Manager at CDG Engineers & Associates Jeff Harrison along with Mayor Johnny Hammock and other utility department managers met at city hall Thursday afternoon to discuss the downtown TAP grant project. The City will begin accepting bids on the downtown streetscape project on Jan. 28.
The project is wide in scope and calls for replacing the sidewalks in the downtown area. Once the project is complete, sidewalks in the downtown area will be ADA compliant.
In addition to the plans to replace the sidewalks, all the water, sewer, and gas lines are set to be replaced during the project.
Mayor Hammock brought up putting dark fiberoptic cable in place that, in the future, could be lit to provide internet access with free WIFI hotspots.
The road around the downtown square will be milled down to the base and new pavement will be put down.
One concern was the awnings that have been built over downtown sidewalks and the columns that support them.
"They (downtown property owners) built an awning on top of the City's right-of-way and the sidewalk has columns there," Mayor Johnny Hammock said.
Under the current preconstruction plan, replacing or removing the columns would be up to the building owner.
"They are going to work around all of the awnings," Harrison said. "The DOT is not going to be involved with an awning. Trying to refurbish or redo those, that falls back on the property owners, fortunately, or unfortunately, whichever way you want to look at it."
According to Harrison, in past projects, property owners have reached out to the bid-winning contractor about making needed repairs.
"When we get into preconstruction, have a notification sent to all the property owners. Let them know that this is beginning to start. Invite them to the preconstruction conference so that they know what's happening, and if they want to work some deals with the contractor then they can work side deals," Harrison explained.
The columns cannot be removed unless the property owner chooses to do so.
"They have an easement by prescription," Mayor Hammock said. "They have been there as long as I can remember. At least 40 or 50 years."
An easement by prescription is given when a property owner has used the space for more than 21-years.
"I think if you start going in and tearing them down or telling them that we are going to remove those post and now it's their responsibility for a building that they are not even using anymore, then they are going to have to spend $10,000 or $20,000 to anchor it back to their building, I think you're probably calling a halt to the project while it goes into litigation."
The fate of the once-popular Hotel Talisi, which is in the heart of the downtown area, is still in question due to a pending lawsuit.
"We are already in litigation with one of the owners of another building," Mayor Hammock said.
With the goal to create an ADA compliant downtown area, Harrison said the columns will not interfere with that plan.
"We have designed everything around all of those posts," he said. "ADA is the primary driving factor for this whole design."
How to reroute traffic during construction was also discussed. N. Ann Street is a highly traveled road and it is scheduled to be milled down and repaved.
"It is used a lot going to the middle school," Hammock said.
With two other roads that lead to Southside Middle School, E.B. Payne and AL Hwy 229, rerouting traffic should not be a major hurdle during the project.
During the streetscape project, utility lines in the area will be replaced.
"Most of the sewer in the areas is very small diameter sewer, so we are going back in with manholes and traditional gravity sewer," Harrison said.
In addition, water and gas lines will be replaced.
"This is a pretty good-sized utility project," Harrison said. "This is basically completely redoing the water, sewer, and gas in that downtown stretch."
New striping, signage, landscaping, lighting, and electrical will also be part of the project and will create a more mobility friendly downtown during the day and at night.
"Putting LED lights in with a nice fixture that's going to project out a lot of light in this area to really offer a nice pedestrian walkway in the evenings," Harrison said.
According to Harrison, downtown business owners should not be inconvenienced during the upcoming project.
"Businesses owners in the downtown area, they are to have ingress and egress easements at all times. We can't have property owners shutdown or businesses shutdown. People need to be able to get in to do business."
Tallassee city officials received the green light from the Federal Highway Administration for the Alabama Department of Transportation's Transportation Alternatives Program grant in October. The overall projected project cost is $725,000, which will include $580,000 in federal funds through ALDOT. The City must provide the other 20% match.