City gives update on resiliency grant project

Thursday, December 7, 2017
On Wednesday afternoon, during a meeting at the PDC updating the public on the national disaster resiliency wetlands and sewer system projects, those in attendance were able to catch a glimpse of the initial design of the Forked Deer River Park. In this initial rendering, the downtown dog park, walking trails, farmers market, a spray park, among other amenities are shown. According to City Construction Inspector Scott Ball, nothing is completely set in stone. Further details about the project will be discussed at future public meetings.

BRANDON HUTCHESON

bhutcheson@stategazette.com

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, the City of Dyersburg held a meeting at the Professional Development Center (PDC) providing updates to the public regarding the national disaster resiliency wetlands and sewer system projects.

City Construction Inspector Scott Ball (above) and City Engineer Tiffany Heard (below) discuss the projects to those in attendance.

In March 2016, it was announced that the City of Dyersburg was awarded $7.4 million in National Disaster Resilience Competition grants – with $4.4 million to be used for Parks and Recreation and $3 million for sewer infrastructure rehabilitation. In March 2017, the City received the official award for the grant and was given the authority to proceed with the engineering and environmental portions of the project.

On November 27, the City received confirmation from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development that the Wetlands Restoration Project Environmental Review had been cleared and all other contract conditions had been satisfied, allowing the City to draw grant funds and proceed with the project.

“It’s been a long process from March 2016 to this day,” said Dyersburg Mayor John Holden. “This grant is going to do some things for our community that requires no match – no taxpayer money, no match from the residents – it’s essentially free money. We’re really excited about this. This has the opportunity to change the face of our community.”

He thanked everyone in attendance and also recognized everyone from the City who has been involved with the project including Scott Ball, Tiffany Heard, Bob Jones, Greg Williams, Thomas Mullins, Kevin Joslin, Steve Anderson, and the City aldermen who gave their approval for the City to pursue the grant. He also thanked Danny Walden for allowing the meeting to occur at the PDC.

He then turned the meeting over to City Construction Supervisor Scott Ball and City Engineer Tiffany Heard.

“The sewer rehab project has been going on for about a year,” said Ball. “We’re into the phase of that where we’ll be putting the bids out for the rehab in February and construction on March. Any monies that are left over from one project we can move from one to another.”

Discussing the grant funds, Ball added that the City would have to show, once the project was completed, that the money used in the project has improved the community.

Ball, then, spoke on the newest rendering of the Forked Deer River Park.

“This is a rendering. Nothing is set in stone,” explained Ball. “We’re open to all comments, suggestions, ideas to make this better for everybody involved.”

He mentioned that the property that the Forked Deer River Park will reside on is owned by the City. He then spoke about various features of the park.

“We are going to rehab the overhang structure, re-roof it, whatever we have to do to make it nice,” said Ball. “Through the Tourism Grant, we are redoing the River Center. We’ll redo all of the parking, [and] add some streetscaping at the end of Mill Ave. [The rendering] shows a playground area and a splash park. These are some really nice features for downtown Dyersburg, and it can set us apart from a lot of other communities.”

“We’ve added some detail to the River Park, but we’ve also had to make some changes from the original plans. As we moved through the environmental process, it turned out that the south precinct project, which is over off of Brooks [Ave.]/ McKee [Ave.], that entire parcel for the most part, was a mosaic wetland, which meant we couldn’t come and build a new precinct there, practice field, or basketball courts there,” explained Heard. “Because of the wetland and because of this new regulation by HUD basically saying they wouldn’t give us money to build in the flood plain, we have decided to move this new precinct and the basketball courts out to Highway 51 and Christie Street. We’re still going to allow for some detention and vegetated bio swells, but that was going to be a reclaimed wetland, and now since we have a wetland, we’re going to move the wetland to the existing precinct property.

“I’m kind of excited because I think we are going to have an opportunity to put a really nice, charming building out on Highway 51, which is going to be a great thing.”

Heard added that the soccer complex project is “on track”.

“Another development was that the Improve Act was passed, and in the Improve Act, when it went around, was the replacement of both of the bridges on Main,” added Heard. “So, we are working we TDOT, because we don’t want to go in, invest a lot of money in this bridge, the walkways, lighting if TDOT is going to come and tear it all down. We’re trying to work with them to see of a timeline when they are going to come in and do the bridges and see what kind of position we’re in to lobby for lighting, sidewalks, a bike trail to come across the bridge.”

She mentioned that smoke testing had occurred in the Evansville area as well.

“We learned a lot,” she added.

Ball then turned the meeting over to those in attendance for questions.

Ball was asked what is the completion date of the project?

“On the sewer, it is [March] 2019 and 2021 on the parks and recreation,” responded Ball.

“That is to complete construction and close the project out,” said Heard. “When we get to the end of this, and for some period of time after the grants have been completed, we’re going to have to report back to HUD with hard data that shows we have done all of the things we promised we would do with this money. We’re going to track how many people rent the Forked Deer River Center, track how many people we think are using the parks, how many people are using the soccer complex. We’re going to need a lot of support from the community in the years coming up in helping us show HUD we did what we said we would do.”

Streetscaping, especially in the area around the dog park and South Mill Ave. area was also discussed.

“South Mill is a little bit challenging because it’s not a pass thru street,” said Ball. “At the end of this [South Mill], we are going to have to put a concrete planter or something at the end of that street. If you leave that to where a vehicle can go through there, and you’re having an event downtown, somebody is going to drive through there. To make that work, we are going to have to use a little strategy.”

“That [South Mill] is not a railroad crossing,” added Heard. “The City of Dyersburg would be accepting a tremendous amount of liability if they in any way encouraged pedestrians across that rail and someone got hit by a train. We’re going to do some streetscaping. To improve that into a railroad crossing right now would be an exorbitant amount of money. We would have to get approval from Tennken, and we couldn’t meet our deadlines.”

“I see us doing some type of attractive planter, or barrier [at the end of South Mill], so cars can’t get down there,” said Heard. I would love for us to improve the sidewalks to the businesses – not to encourage the people to come across to the River Park, but just to keep Mill attractive all the way down.”

Ball was asked if there would be any access to the water level besides a boat dock.

He noted that his long-term goal would be to add a boat ramp on the south side of the Forked Deer River, but that the City must acquire the property first.

“There’s not a ramp between RoEllen and the Obion River to get into the Forked Deer River,” said Ball. “But that is one of the most scenic waterways you’ll run down. I think we can get that done, and I’m going to beat that drum hard. We’re going to need some local support for sure.”

Following questions, Mayor Holden addressed those in attendance again stating, “We’re excited about this project. The City is really aggressive in applying grants and obtaining grants. These 2 folks behind me [Ball and Heard], the rest of the City staff, support staff, and the folks that have been involved in [the] grant [process]. We’ve probably gotten over $30 million in grants [since Holden was initially elected into office] to benefit this community. We still have some work to do – I know it. Just the things we do for our citizens – we are supposed to do it. These folks do a good job, along with the aldermen who give us the authority to do that and improve our community.

“When people come to town, they want to see your downtown. If they are going to make an investment of $20 million or whatever it is, they want to see a vibrant community. They want to know if we have good schools. They want to know if we have good medical facilities. They want to know if we have a college that we’re proud of,” explained the mayor. All of those things go into trying to attract new businesses, industries, retail stores. The commercial façade grant is going on right now, and we’re just really excited about what’s happening. It’s our community. We want everybody to be proud of it.”

Ball added that another public meeting concerning the project should occur in roughly 4 months.

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