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April 24, 2014

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Sidewalk concerns delay replacement project

Preserving the existing stone slab sidewalk on Broadway may stop a new sidewalk project to be paid for by a grant.
Published: 10:27 AM, 02/20/2013 Last updated: 10:49 AM, 02/20/2013

Source: The Rogersville Review

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

ROGERSVILLE - Preservation or progress, in Rogersville that debate applies not only to structures but to sidewalks.
    Members of the Rogersville City School Board heard an update on a proposed, an  apparently unwelcome, sidewalk project at February's meeting.
    According to School Health Coordinator Stephanie Eidson, the sidewalk replacement grant project dates back to 2008 when then Director Ravan Krickbaum was approached by city officials about a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) grant Safe Route To Schools grant.
    Plans are for the money to be used to replace the existing sidewalk along Broadway to encourage students to walk to RCS to improve their health.
    Eidson and Kari Fields drafted and submitted a proposal and the project, which was awarded approximately $229,000 in 2009.
   "That is when a little bit of a lengthy process began that has included some concern about removing the stones on Broadway," Eidson said.
    Eidson said the end result of meetings with TDOT and the engineering firm hired by the city for the project, Mattern and Craig, determined the stone slabs "are actually outside of the National Register listed for the Rogersville Historical District and the sidewalks are not on that Register," making replacement entirely a "local" issue.
    "The project is within the local Historic District and during the course of project design there has always been an understanding that the sidewalks are valued locally. We met with the Historic Preservation Committee in 2010 and we had two or three meetings about the possible reuse of the stones as well as different design options," Eidson explained.
    TDOT, however, said they would not approve any project that used the stone slabs.
    "They (TDOT) said the old stone would not satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, that the sidewalk be smooth, firm and slip resistant," Eidson said.  "ADA compliance is a fundamental requirement of the grant.  It's really for safety reasons."
    Eidson said the city could possibly use the stones as a border of some type beyond the new sidewalk, which must be at least five-feet wide.   Using the stones, however, would totally be at city's expense.
    Eidson noted that on January 25 the city and school officials were given the green light to proceed with construction.
   "However, we still wanted to meet with the Historical Preservation Committee in our efforts to discuss ways to use the old stones.  That has always been in our mind once that was brought up that it was an issue," she added.
    At a February 4 meeting, area residents discussed several possible options about what could be done with the stones, although most took a dim view of a new sidewalk.
    "The Historic Preservation Committee informed us that because the project is within the local historic district they are opposed to removing the old stone sidewalks," Eidson told school board members.
    Board member Todd Biggs said he understands the desire to preserve Rogersville's history and heritage, but he also noted the existing stone sidewalk is a liability for the city.
   "It is extremely dangerous, as it is now.  You risk breaking a leg just walking on it let alone jogging," Biggs explained.  "It's really hazardous as it is and the taxpayers are looking at a major liability."
    Eidson said she will meet with city officials in the near future to try to resolve the sidewalk issue because the grant must be used by September of 2014.

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