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Pre-paving work begins downtown

City officials say work on a downtown street paving project hasbegun, but it will probably be several months before any asphaltgoes down.

City Engineer Carl Ray Furr said work on a handicapaccessibility study is under way. The study is needed since thecity is planning to use part of approximately $400,000 inaccumulated federal Surface Transportation Program funds for theproject.

“We are in the middle of it now and are hoping to get itsolved,” Furr said.

Ed Bailey, design engineer with Furr’s Engineering Associates,said preliminary data for the sidewalk study is being gathered.

“We’ve got to do a pretty thorough survey of existingsidewalks,” Bailey said. “We’re in that phase.”

The engineers said the survey work will probably take severalweeks.

In addition to determining areas where wheelchair ramps will beneeded, Bailey said the survey will identify what utility poleswould have to be be relocated.

“It just takes time to get all that together,” Bailey said.

Several aldermen have expressed an eagerness to get the projectmoving forward.

“We have been planning on paving downtown since sometime lastyear,” said Ward Four Alderman Bob Massengill during a recent cityboard discussion about several engineering matters.

Ward Three Alderwoman Mrs. Jerry L. Wilson, whose ward includesmuch of the downtown area, expressed similar comments later. Shesaid the handicap study and the paving should already have beendone, but she was hopeful it will begin soon.

“It’s a need there, and we need to start the project as soon aspossible,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the handicap accessibility is important. She said itwas important to help maintain downtown businesses and the tax basethere.

“It will also beautify the area,” Wilson said about expectedproject benefits.

Many of the streets targeted for the paving project wereaffected by the Whitworth Fire Loop water system project done in2002. Paving over of the areas where new water lines were installedwas a part of that contract.

According to a discussion between Furr and the board last May,the paving project was originally expected to be done aroundOctober and completed before the end of the year. In October, Furrinformed board members of the handicap study need, thus delayingthe project’s start.

Once the study is completed, the project should be in a positionto be advertised for bids.

Furr indicated that would be done after Easter. Bailey saidengineers were looking for good weather for the asphalt work tobegin.

“We hope we can get it started in the summer during the warmweather months,” Bailey said.