Jasper City Council

Officials want new downtown paving delayed for April weather

Elliot Boulevard paving raises pedestrian traffic concerns

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Tuesday's agenda for the Jasper City Council is expected to address directing Nelson Engineering to get bids for the fourth phase of the city's downtown paving project - as long as the work waits to start with warming weather, likely in mid-April.


The matter was discussed at Friday's work session of the Jasper City Council. City Engineer Joe Matthews started by noting that a walk-through on the sidewalk project was done that morning with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).


"The contractor has a punch list, but he is going to be done in the next week or two weeks," he said. "We have those gaps between the gutter and the pavement, which is our problem, not the contractors. So we have talked about that we would mill and pave those areas."


He then said he sent council members drawings and cost estimates that Nelson Engineering prepared of paving work for Sixth Avenue, between 18th Street and 19th Street. He noted it involves 18th between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and skips over and is 18th Street starting from Second Avenue to Alabama Avenue. .


"He gave us a cost estimate of about $192,000 if we do Corona Avenue between 19th and 20th, which is where we have done all the sidewalk changes Sher Nutrition and Eric's Barber Shop, is where it is. It is $220,000 - that is everything, with striping."


Matthews asked if the council is ready for Nelson to send the project out for bids for that project.
"If you are doing a $220,000 paving project, you need to think about a quarter of a million dollars, because paving is so volatile right now. It is up and down," he said. "As you are well aware, like on Highway 118, the problems Dunn Construction is having."


The Highway 118 state paving project was expected to end around Thanksgiving, but weather has been blamed for the paving continuing until now.


Matthews said if Nelson sends out for bids, the council needs to understand the contractor is not going to "show up in three weeks and do it. It is going to take some time for a paving contractor to come in due to the weather, the temperature and the rain."


Matthews said he would hope the work could start in six to eight weeks. "Hopefully we could do it in April or May, if that is what you choose to do," he said.


Mayor David O'Mary said the work is something that the city needs to do sometime.


"I've taken a lot of flak over Highway 118, which I have no control over," he said, and added it would be written about in the Daily Mountain Eagle - all of which prompted laughter in the room, knowing criticism received on social media online.


"If I have any influence on the council's decision, I would want to make darn sure we put it out there that the weather does not stand in the way of doing the work. If we don't get 118 fixed, and we could add the flak this will bring about, I don't know if my bullet-proof vest is going to hold once more."


Councilman Gary Cowen said it is better to do the work in warmer weather.


"My opinion is we ought to send the bids out to complete the downtown area paving project," Cowen said.


O'Mary said he would ask to make sure it would be done in good weather. "Winter is still very real in March in Jasper, Alabama, he said.


Matthews said at this point the city would not have a contractor until the first of April anyway, and he said Nelson could be instructed that the project start no earlier than April 15 but be completed no later than June 1, or something along those lines.


Councilman Willie Moore noted Matthews has talked of a paving project on 20th Street from about the Salvation Army all the way to Posey's. Matthews said the city's grant writer, Terry Acuff, has applied for that with Rebuild Alabama funds, but has not heard a decision yet.


Elliott Boulevard paving disruptions discussed


Matthews also mentioned Elliott Boulevard, as ALDOT has bid off a project for that area and have received bids. That project is being held until middle to late spring for the same weather concerns the council discussed earlier.


"And when that starts, there are expecting us to close that section of 19th Street that we agreed we will do," he said.


Councilwoman Jennifer Williams Smith said she wants to make sure about the alternative route on 10th Avenue, which she said is "horrible" due to a dip. She said that needs to be addressed.


She also noted the problem of disrupting pedestrian traffic in that area, as many people walk to Dollar General downtown or to the Walker County Homeless Coalition. Matthews said he would provide a cost estimate in the next week or two for a sidewalk to go from the intersection of 19th Street and 10th Avenue and going down to Elliott Boulevard, and then also on the other side of Elliot, which the state has agreed to, for a sidewalk to go down to 19th Street.


Matthews said that sidewalk addition would be "fairly expensive, possibly costing $100,000 to $150,000. Williams said the city is trying to connect anyway, and sidewalks are downtown that are well done.


"But then we just stop when we get over here, and that is one of the bigger needs to get across," she said.


Matthew noted in the 19th Street Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) project, that allows for sidewalk on 10th Avenue from 19th Street down to 21st Street to allow pedestrian traffic to go both ways. City Clerk Kathy Chambless said the CDBG grant was not approved in the current grant cycle but it should be in the next cycle. She said a related Appalachian Regional Commission grant was approved.


Moore asked if the state agreed to put a sidewalk from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around to Dollar General, but Matthews said the city is waiting on an answer.


Smith said if she was coming from the Jasper Family Services Center and would normally go straight across Elliott, she said she could instead go south on 10th Street (and then Highway 69) to eventually come out at Elliott, or they can turn and come out by the ice house to get back onto Alabama 69. Matthews agreed.