City discusses expectations of $1.25 million sidewalk project

A Special Called Joint Work Session of the Public Works and the IT/Planning committees was recently held to discuss the scope and expectations of the Downtown Square Sidewalks Project 2021 with Huntsville, Alabama-based Croy Engineering, LLC, the company hired to develop engineering and landscape architecture aspects of this project.

Conversation included Grant Donnelly, RLA, ALSA, manager of Croy’s Landscape Architecture Service, going over a list of questions to members of these two committees to determine elected officials’ expectations and guidelines as preliminary design work begins. The $1.25 million funding for the Downtown Square Sidewalks is part of the $5 million bond issue that was approved by the Mayor and Board of Alderman last November.

Donnelly asked Vice Mayor Danny Bryant and Alderman Dorothy Small, who serve on the Public Works committee, and Alderman Donna Hartman, who, along with Alderman Tony Allen, sits on the IT/Planning committee, “What is the city’s most important issue to address with this project?” Allen was unable to attend the March 22 meeting.

Bryant said it is vital to get a clear understanding concerning what can and can’t be done within the parameters of the budget. “We can’t do everything we want,” Bryant said, adding that “we can overdo on the sidewalks and not be able to do the drainage and paving.”

He also recommended eliminating all major safety issues regarding the sidewalks, specifically the area on South Main Avenue in front of Norman Furniture where “people have fallen.” Bryant’s third recommendation is having good coordination with business and building owners that will be impacted by this work since utilities will be a major undertaking.

Alderman Small said that many of the buildings around the square have old underground service elevators going to basements that have open cavities. “Once you start looking at all the underground utilities, there are some unknowns,” she added.

Alderman Hartman said that some of sidewalks openings to the underground utilities have been welded together, such as in front of Ivy Wreath. “There’s no telling what’s underneath,” she added.

Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU) CEO/General Manager Britt Dye also gave input concerning the existing utilities that are run in the road right-of-way and beneath the sidewalks; what services are connected to buildings beneath the sidewalks, and if there is a desire to replace or upgrade any materials during this construction.

Other questions from Donnelly included: what elements would the city like to introduce into the streetscape; what elements would the City like to remove; what improvements off the square would liked to be accomplished with this project; replacement of street trees; and are provisions for outdoor dining a focus?

Hartman said the holly trees around the square block the view of store fronts, and, although some people want them removed, others don’t. The roots are causing problems underneath the sidewalks, Hartman recommended having them removed. In years past, parking meters were in front of store fronts around the square.

A representative from the Boys Scouts of America attended the work session. Prior to the meeting, he explained how flags could be displayed around the square throughout the year, such as Memorial Day, July 4th, Veterans Day, etc., and would not be a large cost to the city.

Going forward, City Administrator Scott Collins, who chaired the meeting, said one of the key components of this project is making sure everyone is aware of what’s involved. Further into the planning aspect, public meetings will be held to get input from the community and particularly those impacted by the work. Some of the utility work from the meters to each building could include a cost to business and property owners since “everything is so old.”

Dye said it would be better if FPU gets their job done before the city begins actual work on the sidewalks.

Patrick Lenton, PE, director of Professional Services with Croy, said it could be the early part of 2022 before his company has the design ready for bid. Therefore, actual work on the sidewalks is more than a year away.