City applies for millions of dollars in grant funding
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA — The City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to approve nine applications for funds through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation Improvement Program.

Eight of the applications approved would be for resurfacing, and the ninth would be for upgrading a traffic signal.

City Manager Brian Muenger explained the grants would cover up to 80 percent of the cost of the infrastructure improvement projects, with the city being responsible for 20 percent in local matching funds and engineering costs.

All of these projects meet the criteria set out for the state for ATRIP projects, and will be done in addition to the $1.2 million worth of paving projects in the council’s current capital improvement fund.

The first project would cover 5.4 miles of surface paving on Thornton Street, Nimitz Ave., Broadway Ave. and Bankhead Blvd. at a total cost of $1,351,334; the second would cover 2.3 miles on Eastaboga and Ironaton Cutoff roads at a cost of $557,599; 1.6 miles of Stephen J. White Memorial Blvd. at $325,110; 1.5 miles of Renfroe Road at $264,981; 1.4 miles of Howard Street at $397,400; 3.7 miles of Spring, Hawthorne and East streets and Allison Mill Road at $663,665; 3.6 miles of Gertrude Michaels South, McMillan and Chaffee streets at $730,501; and 2.2 miles of Cherry Street and Taylor’s Mill Road $377,399.

The last project application approved Thursday was an upgrade to the traffic signal at Coosa and East Streets at a total cost of $166,304. According to Muenger, this will not only replace outdated equipment at that intersection, it will also allow signals to be coordinated with the CSX Railroad traffic control to optimize traffic flow.

The city would be responsible for approximately $175,000 in plan development fees, and matching and inspection funds would total $1,105,847, according to Muenger’s estimate.

The council also approved two other improvement projects with minimal debate during Thursday’s meeting.

The first would involve a contract with Davis Builders to make the restrooms on the main floor of city hall fully compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as creating a conference room from vacant office space and repair of water damaged office space. Muenger said the current conference space at city hall can not accommodate more than six people comfortably, which is simply not big enough.

The cost of the city hall renovation project is to be no more than $64,855.

The second project involved yet another grant application, this one through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Land and Water Conservation Fund for the construction of ADA compliant restrooms at Veterans Park. The grant would cover 50 percent of the project cost, which will be capped at $50,000.

Veterans Park is one of three city parks that received LWCF grants in the past, but failed to live up to all of the standards required by that fund. Muenger said this project would be enough to make the city eligible for other LWCF grants in the future. Councilman Donnie Miller asked Muenger to look into the possibility of building a skateboard park sometime in the future.

Also Thursday, the council:

• Discussed a recent wave of residential burglaries in the city, with one recently victimized citizen suggesting that more police officers be hired at salaries competitive with the surrounding area, and that police dogs be acquired and trained. Police Chief Alan Watson said agreed with these statements, but said the problem also involved criminals re-offending while out on bond and the state board of Pardons and Paroles releasing prisoners as early as three months into a five year sentence. Council President Horace Patterson asked Muenger and Watson to discuss the issue indepth and present a report next month.

• Saw Mayor Larry Barton present City Clerk Beth Cheeks with a proclamation for City Clerk’s Month. Barton characterized Cheeks as “worth her weight in gold.”

• Congratulated Erin Stockdale, who had been appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy by Sen. Jeff Sessions. Stockdale has a 4.16 grade point average and has earned $560,000 in scholarships.

• Saw Barton present a proclamation for Older Americans Month.

• Honored photographer, small business owner and lay minister Van Blankenship and his wife Mary for their years of service to the community. Blankenship opened his business in 1955, and took Barton’s wedding photos the following year.

• Heard Muenger and Public Works Director Karen Phillips report on weekend flooding around town. Tinney Street remained closed Thursday but should reopen today. Extensive damage was done to private property as well as the Brecon Recreation Center, which flooded. Tremendous amounts of detritus was recovered from various ditches, including a piece of cement slab the size of the council chamber. Muenger and Phillips both said that the 10-year drainage plan currently in development should help address these issues.

• Heard Muenger report that some residents of Coffee Street had to be rescued from flooded homes by boat, by members of the police and fire departments and the rescue squad.

• Heard Muenger report the Bemiston Storm Shelter had been officially opened.

• Heard Muenger announce the city school board had approved a grant application for school resource officers.

• Heard Councilman Jarvis Elston remind those present to remember tornado victims in Oklahoma without homes to return to.

• Heard Phillips report that spot mosquito spraying would begin on Wednesday nights and continue through Labor Day. Sticks for property owners with standing water were also available.

• Heard Councilman Ricky Simpson commend the fire department for saving a home on Dumas Ave.

• Heard Barton announce a structural engineer would be examining the old city hall building and the two buildings on either side of it.

• Heard Patterson commend the fire and public works departments for helping clear out three and a half inches of water from the basement of Mount Canaan Baptist Church.

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© 2013