Phase I of Green-way project nears completion

The first phase in Fayetteville’s Greenway Project is nearing completion, and a ribbon cutting has been tentatively set for May 8, according to discussion in the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s meeting last week.

“The project is approximately 95 percent complete,” said City Administrator Scott Collins Tuesday as he described final aspects of the project currently underway. “We’ve tentatively set the ribbon cutting for May 8 ... Of course, it all hinges on executive orders from the governor, but our hopes and prayers are that come Monday, May 4, we’re back in business because this is a challenge for everybody.”

Phase I will connect downtown Fayetteville to Stone Bridge Park via South Elk Avenue via a walkway. Phase II, which will connect the Phase I project with Camp Blount Historical Site via a large pedestrian bridge over the Elk River, is drawing one step closer to becoming a reality, Collins said, noting bids were opened last week. The bids came in under budget, he said.

The meeting was the second held by the board electronically since Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 16, issued in March, authorizing all governing bodies to meet electronically in light of circumstances related to COVID-19. That order, coupled with the governor’s Executive Order 17 prohibiting social gatherings of 10 or more people, meant that it is advisable for governing bodies to meet electronically.

Explaining that, Mayor Michael Whisenant called the meeting to order from the municipal auditorium as aldermen and the city attorney linked in a video conference. Physically present for the session were the mayor, Collins, city recorder Pam Gentry, and IT Director Jerry Taylor. Video of the meeting has been posted on the city’s social media and on Fayetteville Public Utilities’ Channel 6. The preceding Thursday, the board also met electronically for its monthly work session.

Only two action items were on the agenda, the first of those being a donation to the Hands of Mercy Outreach Center, a local nonprofit working to provide food to families in need. In work session, the board had discussed a $2,000 donation.

“They have served 308 families in the last two weeks, and that’s compared to an average of 425 in three months,” said Alderman Tonya Allen as she made a motion favoring a $5,000 donation, explaining that the center is in need of donations as it has increased its distributions from quarterly to monthly due to the pandemic. “I feel like everyone is stressed right now, but no one in our community should have to be stressed over having to feed their family.”

Ultimately, the board approved an amended motion calling for a $3,500 donation.

The other item saw the board approving the appointment of Jim Neale to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

COVID-19 was certainly top of mind as board members shared their thoughts, words of encouragement, and prayers during the meeting.

Noting that the governor’s executive orders 22 and 23 have been extended to the end of the month, orders requiring Tennesseans to stay at home unless they are engaged in essential business, Whisenant said he has been following predictions that are reflecting a shift for the better.

“Today is supposed to be the peak period in Tennessee, so hopefully we’ll start to see a downward trend over the next two weeks, and hopefully by the time we have our May board meeting, we’ll all be back here in our seats,” the mayor said. “Pray for our community and country.”

He also expressed his excitement for the progress on the Greenway and Camp Blount projects and his sympathies for the family of Dr. Fred Ralston, who recently passed away. “The loss of Dr. Ralston is great,” he said. “He was a very highly accomplished individual, and we were very fortunate that he came back to Fayetteville and brought his talents here.”