Mayor’s effort fails to pare down Crossville revitalization

CROSSVILLE – An effort to pare down the downtown Crossville revitalization project fell by the wayside this week as the topic was once again discussed by the Crossville city council.

A $7.6 million bid for the effort was recently rejected by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) due to a technicality, and the project is currently being rebid – cost estimates are due back April 1. But Tuesday, Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham made a motion to construct only certain items, limiting the scope to just new water lines and sidewalks, which would be rebuilt by the city over a period of time to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That leaves out major stormwater and enhancement efforts, efforts that the mayor had once supported. Graham said that decision came after reviewing the city’s 10-year capital projects plan – and the corresponding revenue needs.

“I feel I must change my priorities,” Graham said. “It’s about the highest and best use of our resources.”

Graham’s motion failed in a 3-2 vote, presumably meaning re-bids will be opened as planned. But, to some, the heart of the matter was really about deferring funds instead to the northwest connector, a three-phase road project to connect Genesis Road and Highway 70 West by upgrading both Interstate and Northside drives. Section one is currently under construction by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) but the council recently failed to approve budget amendments for sections two and three, putting those pieces in limbo. Graham has said the project, once completed, could have a similar economic impact as Cookeville’s Restaurant Row.

 “It just really concerns me why (downtown’s) getting bailed on all the sudden. I think there’s more behind the scenes to this than what’s being discussed,” councilman Jesse Kerley said. “If we’re bailing on the downtown project to do the northwest connector…I think we need to talk about this more.”

“This doesn’t make any sense to me,” councilman Pete Souza added of Graham’s motion. “This is a tradeoff, ladies and gentlemen, for the northwest connector. We’re not talking about just modifying the downtown (project)…we’re talking about destroying people’s dreams and aspirations that have built up around this. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s not good.”

The council will still have to vote in April to approve a winning price proposal on the downtown revitalization. In an email Wednesday, leaders at Downtown Crossville Inc., the nonprofit behind the project, outlined several activities on tap for Main Street this year: “Hopefully…,” the note said, “planning activities during the renovation/construction of downtown (will) keep ‘feet on the street’…supporting the local merchants.”

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