Downtown median, sidewalk improvements approved for State of Franklin Road

Gary B. Gray • Aug 17, 2013 at 10:27 PM

The City Commission on Thursday voted to defer five projects and instead place the funding of median and sidewalk improvements on State of Franklin Road between Roan and Buffalo street at the top of its priority list.

Earlier this month commissioners directed the Public Works Department staff to develop a detailed cost estimate, which is between $175,000 and $200,000, if constructed using in-house labor. The project is not included in the fiscal 2014 budget and will require holding off on the other projects to properly fund it.

“We’ll be putting in new crosswalks on State of Franklin at Roan, Spring and Buffalo streets and adding center medians between Buffalo and Roan,” Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said. “We’ll also be putting in a new median on Buffalo from State of Franklin to Cherry Street.”

The deferred projects include municipal parking lot resurfacing ($150,000); Freedom Hall parking lot resurfacing ($100,000); Walnut Street/State of Franklin intersection improvements ($100,000); Winged Deer Park playground equipment ($50,000); and Carnegie Park playground equipment and parking lot improvements ($20,000).

The two parking lot resurfacing projects and the intersection improvements are funded with unspent bond proceeds. The two park projects are funded directly by a general fund transfer and the State of Franklin project will be funded with previously issued bond proceeds.

“We are attempting to prioritize pedestrian safety downtown,” Pindzola added. “This also should lower speeds of the motorists traveling through that area. Also, we’ll be eliminating a crosswalk between Spring and Roan. Our studies showed that at night, most pedestrians do not use that crosswalk, so we’re doing this to eliminate a ‘conflict crossing.’ ”

Additional lighting also is planned, including lighting at the ground level. Public Works staff will be meeting with the Johnson City Power Board to coordinate construction schedules.

Commissioners also discussed flooding at Memorial Park Community Center. Orange sandbags were evident at various doors at the center before and after a significant rain event a few weeks ago. Several commissioners toured the site a few days ago, and before approving a more than $535,000 final payment Thursday to Rentenbach Constructors, commissioners wanted to make sure that flooding issues were not due to faulty design or construction.

Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin asked Tommy Burleson, the city’s construction agent, if there was any “culpability” on the part of the contractor.

“The culprit is the rain,” Burleson said. “It is not a design issue. The building was constructed for a 100-year flood, but saturated ground from rain events is not allowing water to saturate and to drain into stormwater systems.”

Commissioner Jeff Banyas finished, saying he’d just like to see the sandbags “out of there” and that he wanted to make sure the situation was taken care of when City Manager Pete Peterson looked over at Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl and said, “Charlie, go get a truck and get the sandbags out of there.”

It was hard to tell whether he was joking or a bit riled, or both.

“It’s not going to be an expensive fix,” Peterson added.

He also said the detention pond at the front of the facility “has never overflowed.”

On Aug. 8, the Johnson City Press left a telephone message with Development Services Director Angie Carrier, who oversees codes enforcement. She did not return the call but emailed Community Relations about the inquiry.

“I’m not sure as the amount of sandbags that he is referring to or how many exits were affected, but in general as long as ingress and egress is not impeded, a code would not be violated,” she wrote.

According to the city’s building codes, all buildings “not provided with adequate egress” are unlawful (Title 12, Chapter 1, section 12-107).

Meanwhile, a second reading of an ordinance to rezone property located at 920 N. State of Franklin Road from medical services to planned arterial business remains on hold. Earlier this month, commissioners deferred a second reading after agreeing to order a study of potential problems linked with high-vehicle counts and crowded streets neat the proposed 29-acre parcel that would support a $20 million retail development by Nashville’s GBT Realty.

City officials said this week the study should be complete in mid-September. The study is not being conducted by the city. It is being done by Nashville’s Gresham, Smith & Partners, the developer’s civil engineer of choice, which also develops site plans for GBT.

Mike Hunkler, Gresham, Smith & Partners principal-in-charge, talks about the company’s association with the developer on GS&P’s website: “We became GBT’s civil engineer on multiple projects happening simultaneously and on very fast-paced schedules. Our goal was to complete a set of site-development construction and bid drawings for the initial permitting submittal within two weeks of our notice to proceed. It was, and is, multitasking on steroids.”

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