After discussing a proposed streetscape plan and infrastructure needs at a downtown Mount Airy site for months, city officials will get a firsthand look at the situation.
That was decided near the end of a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday afternoon, after officials had discussed various issues involving Market Street.
It is a historic local roadway near the heart of downtown which fell into disrepair in recent years, but has benefited from an influx of new businesses which is fueling the streetscape proposal with a potential $375,000 price tag.
One is the new Thirsty Fish microbrewery operation headed by Dr. Jan Kriska, where recent flooding and drainage issues have resulted along with other businesses from a $154,300 project already undertaken. It involved water and sewer rehabilitation work in response to numerous line failures along Market Street.
Upon discussing that and other problems Thursday afternoon, Commissioner Steve Yokeley suggested that the board adjourn its meeting to Market Street until one evening next week, when officials will eyeball the situation while also visiting businesses there including Thirsty Fish.
“I think that’s the first time in the history of Mount Airy there’s been a motion to recess to a brewery,” City Attorney Hugh Campbell joked afterward.
A tale of two problems
Cracks in asphalt and other changes resulting from the recent water/sewer project have caused the drainage issues and flooding of basements, which businesses owners have complained about during recent city council meetings including the one Thursday.
The rough surface of Market Street left in the wake of that project also is a concern.
Coupled with those issues, the streetscape plan has encountered a set of roadblocks of its own.
That proposal includes asphalt paving, crosswalks, granite curbing, decorative lighting, granite islands, brick pavers, landscaping, a brick sitting wall with a granite cap and columns, a concrete sidewalk with brick banding and other features, as part of a major Market Street facelift.
Supporters of that project say it would enhance the street’s appeal as a tourist destination, and enable it to be closed off for special events through the use of removal bollards.
However, during design work for the streetscape project, it was discovered that existing public parking space on Market Street is actually privately owned, which will require an easement from its owners before the project can proceed. Negotiations are being sought.
Also, an old concrete street was discovered at the site which would hamper the project unless removed — which makes up an estimated $50,000 of the potential $375,000 cost.
As if that were not enough, the low base bid submitted by Sowers Construction expires Sunday, which means that since the commissioners haven’t approved a contract for the streetscape plan — including during Thursday’s meeting — the project must be re-bid.
City Engineer Mitch Williams, who updated the situation Thursday, told city officials that if the streetscape effort does not move forward, he recommends that Market Street be resurfaced as soon as possible.
Williams explained that while the street was in poor condition before the water/sewer work, it also now has additional asphalt cuts and patches and “very rough” pavement due to that project.
“I just think we need to take care of the problem at hand,” Williams told city officials.
He said the expense of resurfacing the street, including milling out the old pavement, is estimated at $37,000, while a temporary fix would cost about $13,000.
Water damage concerns
After Williams’ presentation, the commissioners took no action on either the resurfacing or the streetscape plan, except for supporting Yokeley’s proposal for reconvening the meeting at Market Street next week.
“I think all of it needs to be addressed at once,” the commissioner said of the many factors to be resolved. “I think the board needs to see the problems themselves.”
Yokeley seemed particularly concerned about the new microbrewery and its expensive equipment.
“We certainly don’t want that to be damaged,” he said of the drainage problem.
Yokeley said that when the board meets on Market Street, it also can gain a better understanding on curbing, guttering and other needs there as part of the overall project picture.
“And I think it needs to be done correctly,” Yokeley said of any resulting construction, “so it can last for many years.”
He added: “It’s going to be a major project when it’s done.”
Also at the meeting, the commissioners:
• Voted to accept a $722,500 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation to aid water and sewer improvements at the former Spencer’s industrial site downtown, which the city government now owns and is redeveloping for new uses. The grant from tobacco-settlement funds requires a local match of 20 percent.
“It’s a very modest match request,” city Community Development Director Martin Collins, who was instrumental in securing the grant, told the council.
• Approved the voluntary annexation of a 5.6-acre site at 384 Old Toast Road where a 60-unit apartment complex is planned. The commissioners had voted in April to rezone the property to accommodate the housing project, but not annex it, as previously reported.
• Appointed N.A. Barnes to the Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the commissioners on zoning and related matters. Barnes, a former member of that group, will replace Dr. Roger Kerley, whose term recently expired and who elected not to seek reappointment. Barnes was approved for a three-year term to expire on Oct. 31, 2019.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.