A new baseball practice field, restroom facilities, picnic area and a “pocket park” will soon be built along Mount Airy’s greenway system — if the city commissioners approve a contract for the work tonight.
But to this point, the process of bringing those facilities to fruition has been rocky, including difficulties in accomplishing that within the scope of a $250,000 state grant — including twice sending the project out to bids because proposals were too high.
That grant was awarded in 2015 to the city by the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) to finance enhancements along the greenway route including a Little League baseball practice field at Tharrington Park.
Other planned additions are a restroom facility behind New Market Crossing Shopping Center for greenway users, a picnic area there and what has been described as an “overlook pocket park.” It is eyed for a site at the confluence of Lovills Creek and the Ararat River at Carter Street (near Nester Hosiery), which city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander has said would be an educational-type facility with signage and benches.
When construction bids were first received for the enhancement package around September 2016, the lowest was $481,552 and the highest, $561,000 — well above the grant sum. This led to a decision to “redevelop the scope” of the plans in an attempt to come in under budget, according to a city government memo from Alexander.
However, a second round of bids received in June under this process revealed that the lowest proposal — from J.G. Coram Co. of Mount Airy — was still over budget, with $16,000 having already been spent for advertising and other costs.
Coram officials then agreed to trim about $18,000 from that by revising certain items. Also, city public works crews will be responsible for various major elements of the work, including 20 yards of concrete and forming sidewalks and pads for the restrooms and picnic area. The use of city crews also was incorporated into recent plans for major improvements on Market Street to conform to budget limitations.
The adjustments for the greenway work have resulted in a net proposed contract award of $226,756 to J.G. Coram, which the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners will consider approving during today’s meeting that begins at 7 p.m. Another $6,774 will be set aside for contingencies, unforeseen problems arising during construction.
Alexander also is hoping that donations will be received for the greenway improvements.
Another matter to be addressed at tonight’s meeting concerns a proposal that has attracted much attention in the community since first being proposed at an Aug. 3 commissioners meeting.
City officials were asked then by the president of the Downtown Business Association to consider having the stoplights removed from three downtown intersections along North Main Street to curb speeding along the main route through the central business district.
Those stoplights are located at the Oak Street, Moore Avenue and Franklin Street intersections of North Main.
Under a proposal outlined on Aug. 3, the traffic signals would be replaced with a stop sign configuration that would force all motorists to come to a complete halt as opposed to trying to beat red lights.
Fast-forwarding to tonight’s meeting, Lizzie Morrison, coordinator of the Mount Airy Downtown organization, will give a presentation on the plan.
Commissioners have said that even though local officials have the authority to remove the stoplights along the city-maintained route, they want to get an opinion from the N.C. Department of Transportation before making such a change.
Among other items to be addressed at tonight’s meeting are:
• A public hearing on the proposed rezoning of property on North Main Street to allow it to be used as the company headquarters for a local mechanical contractor, Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co. Inc.
That business now located on East Oak Street is in need of a larger property and office space and is seeking to buy a 0.537-acre parcel at 1326 N. Main St. containing a residential-type structure.
The property, located beside the North Main Fire Station, is now zoned R-8 (single-family residential). Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co is seeking to have that changed to R-4 CD (residential and office-conditional district) to accommodate its new headquarters.
Later during tonight’s meeting after the public hearing on the issue, the commissioners will consider voting on the rezoning request.
• The formal approval of a city application for federal Community Development Block Grant funding of up to $2 million to replace aging sewer lines in the Maple Street-Merritt Street area where line failures and backups have occurred. No one spoke in opposition to the grant application during a public hearing at the commissioners’ last meeting on Aug. 3.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.