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City weighs proposed Streetscape cutbacks

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Progress is being made on Phase 1 of the Jonesboro Streetscape project, which involves curb improvements, new sidewalks, and burying utilities under ground in the heart of downtown. But, as the city moves toward Phase 2 of the project, officials are discussing ways to make the work less expensive.

During a work session Monday night, Tommy Newsome, the city's consulting engineer for the project, said the original conception of Streetscape Phase 2 -- which involves curb-and-sidewalk improvements, a new traffic light, and a portion of the underground utilities -- would cost the city approximately $2 million to complete.

Newsome told council members that, to come anywhere close to the city's original total project estimate, the city may need to reconsider burying utilities for Phase 2.

"The cost estimate [of Phase 2] is $2 million," Newsome said. "We need to look at ways of making it cheaper." He suggested that by not burying utilities in Phase 2, the city could reduce the cost by approximately $750,000.

Phase 1, according Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, involves burying the utilities along Main and North McDonough streets, between Spring and College streets, in addition to other aesthetic improvements. He said that phase should be completed by the end of February 2011, at a cost of approximately $2.7 million.

Maddox said the entire cost of Phase 1 is being financed through federal stimulus dollars. However, he said he is hesitant to finance Phase 2 , in its original form, without a dedicated state or federal funding source.

"With the economy being the way it is now, you don't want to obligate yourself too far in advance ... You don't want to take money out of your reserves," Maddox said. "I don't think it would be a big detriment to the project to not bury the utilities in Phase 2. The city is going to look better either way, with fresh sidewalks, new grading, and re-paving. If we can find the funding, we will bury the utilities."

Maddox said that originally, the city had a $2 million Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) grant to help with Phase 1, but that the grant was pulled when the city received stimulus funding for the project. He said if the city could secure an ARC grant for Phase 2, it would be able to complete the project as originally conceived.

"I hope they [the ARC] haven't reallocated the money," Maddox said. "If we can get those for Phase 2, that would be great. I'm hoping that money is still available for the City of Jonesboro. If it is, we can move forward and complete the whole thing."

Maddox said a decision on Phase 2 is months away, and that any changes to the project would require a vote of the city council.

"It's just a proposal at this point," he said.