Crossville downtown project gets deciding vote; possible tax hike discussed

CROSSVILLE – Another vote has been taken on the downtown Crossville revitalization project – possibly the last major step in the ongoing seesaw battle between its supporters and opponents.

A resolution to tentatively award a $7.6 million bid for the infrastructure improvements was debated for nearly half an hour during a special-called meeting of the Crossville city council Thursday morning. Ultimately, the resolution passed 3-2 – with an amendment giving final approval to the bid – but it didn’t come without some continued discussion about the overall affect the project might have, such as a tax increase for the city’s roughly 11,000 residents.

That fact – and the fact that the council hasn’t really ever taken an official stance on the project over the course of its discussion – made some members hesitant to give a final nod forward. A lot of misinformation has been presented on both sides, some city council members say.

“There’s nothing easy about this decision,” said councilman Pete Souza. “There’s no getting around the point that taxes are going to have to go up, (there’s been) escalating cost (since initial projections). There’s issues out there that need to be addressed.

“I am in concurrence with the fact that we quit dallying around about this,” he added. “Either we kill this or we put it to work.”

Highways Inc. submitted the only bid for the project in December, which involves replacing the city’s more than 90-year-old water system; putting in street drainage and improving lighting; and paving and improving traffic signalization, among other items. The price proposal did not include utilities, contingency, engineering costs, etc., which could push the project upward to $10.5 million. The resolution Thursday was needed in large part so the bid could be reviewed by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation’s State Revolving Fund Loan Program, one of the many funding sources secured for the upgrades.

If the funding agencies all OK the bid – which is expected to happen in a matter of weeks – it’s likely the project could break ground in March. It will take 18-24 months to complete.

Voting to approve the bid were Souza, George Marlow and Mayor J. H. Graham, while Danny Wyatt and Jesse Kerley voted no.

“It is without a doubt the most expensive project that the city of Crossville has ever undertaken. It’s expensive,” Graham said. “It’s going to cost the citizens a lot of inconvenience. But in my opinion, now’s the time to do it. It’s going to be expensive, but it’s never going to be less expensive.”

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