By Joel Hall
The Jonesboro City Council approved several utility and rail contracts this week, priming the city to move into the first phase of its downtown streetscape project. The city also ditched its insurance broker of more than 10 years to search for more comprehensive, less expensive coverage.
On Tuesday, the council gave Mayor Luther Maddox the approval to sign several contracts which would begin the process of burying the electrical, telephone, and cable lines along Main and McDonough streets, between Spring and College streets. The contracts authorize the city to pay Georgia Power, Comcast, and AT&T a total of $224,287.41 to bury utilities, and to pay Norfolk Southern Railroad $100,000 for the permits and rights to bore under the railroad line.
Maddox said the contracts are currently being reviewed by the city's attorney and if approved, the city may be able to advertise projects as soon as June and "begin digging" by August.
"[The contracts] are in the hands of the city attorney," Maddox said. "He is going over those before I sign anything. After they're signed, it goes to GDOT [the Georgia Department of Transportation] and they give us the order to proceed to send out the bid package."
Tommy Newsome, the city's engineer, said that upon approval, Georgia Power, Comcast, and AT&T would be paid $139,939, $42,781, and $47,567.41, respectively. He said Norfolk Southern would be paid $30,000 for the boring contracts and another $70,000 to have the railroad supervise rail traffic while construction takes place.
"We're in the 11th hour," said Newsome. "The only thing we've got to do now is get that force agreement [with Norfolk Southern], agree on it and get it signed, and send it to GDOT so they can authorize things to send it to bid."
Newsome said the city has "been actively in the process" of retrieving signatures from Norfolk Southern for the past two months and is expected to have them soon.
While a commuter rail station is no longer planned for the downtown Jonesboro area, Maddox believes the renovation of downtown Jonesboro through its streetscape plan will attract "younger people with more disposable income" to the city.
"We're hoping it will encourage more people to move to downtown," he said.
Maddox said the renovations, which will take approximately three years to complete, will include landscaping, sidewalk improvements, and buried utilities on both sides of the railroad tracks from North Avenue to South Avenue.
On Tuesday, the city also chose to break ties with its insurance broker, Starr Insurance Agency. City Clerk Janice Truhan said certain areas of the city's insurance policy were "questionable."
"An appraisal of the buildings needs to be conducted because they are very low," she said. "A perfect example of that is fire department [building] number 13. That was recently appraised at $2,036,000. The cost of the building in the insurance policy is actually $1 million, so if that facility burned to the ground or something happened, the city would basically get $1 million for that building although the value is $2 million.
"Where the plan lacked before is that there was no computer coverage," Truhan continued. "There was not software coverage and when you think about that, there is now between 28 and 30 computers in the city that have Windows and Microsoft Office Suite. Those all have value. If there was destruction of any of this ... we would have an issue."
A representative of the Starr Insurance Agency in charge of Jonesboro's account could not be reached for comment Wednesday.