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Commercial Street revitalization faces uncertain future

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After over a year of meetings, proposals and hours spent on changes and updates, a single set of numbers could take the Commercial Street revitalization project down to bare bones.

After presenting compelling information one last time at a recent city council meeting, Shayla Hurlbut, former economic development coordinator, put her pride and joy into the hands of the council with the hope that engineering bids would be reasonable enough to support the vision of the lengthy endeavor.

Recent approvals of requests for RDA funds have been questioned by some  fearing a continued depletion of funds that were previously earmarked for that project.  Rent subsidies and grants seem to be eating away at the amount left in the fund.

Councilman Mike Kendell has been a vocal proponent of the project from day one, stating on more than one occasion his belief that something like the revitalization project benefits every business in the vicinity, whereas grants and subsidies only affect individual businesses.

Mayor Ray Little pointed out that in the case of the last grant awarded, new construction would bring a higher property value to the area, something that the RDA is designated for.  The mayor argued that bringing in more property tax has a positive income for the entire city of Morgan.

Councilman Jeff Wardell reminded those involved that the bid could be sent out two ways: the full version and a dramatically scaled down version.  “Once the bids come in, we can determine what can be done,” he said.

Kendell agreed but noted that the plaza could be beneficial for many events in the future.  While other members of the council felt like maybe a new sidewalk and a few planters would be adequate, he stood steadfast, noting that the electric and water departments are willing to put in money for the improvements needed in their area.

Wardell agreed, saying that if all the bids come back too high, they can make adjustments to fit what monies are available. Kendell also noted that if a sidewalk was bad in any other area of the City, RDA funds would not be used, “so why should it be any different for this street?”

Councilman Eric Turner stated he appreciates all the work that has been done on this project, but also felt the council should scale back on some of this project, recommending the elimination of the plaza, the bulb-outs and some of the benches.

“Is Commercial Street only being considered as an access to the county fairgrounds? Or is it an historic area that we are trying to attract people to?” asked Kendell. Turner remained unchanged, conveying that he wasn’t sure what businesses these improvements would potentially attract.

According to Councilman Tony London, concerns were coming from the public works staff regarding snow removal with the inclusion of the bulb outs. Kendell sited another project he had been a part of that had a similar set-up and snow removal has not been an issue.

Mayor Little stated most people “know his take on this project,” and noted that because the estimate came back showing a price tag that exceeds the allocated funds, it puts them in a tough position. “If we use all the funds for this project, there will be no funds for any other projects such as the hotel or Jeff Matthews building on the vacant lot he just purchased…new sidewalks and street lights would enhance the street and are the improvements that are needed.”

Councilman Wardell has been in contact with the engineer who indicated that removing the two bulb outs at the 125 N. intersection and the plaza along with the drainage they require, would save approximately $45,000.

Mayor Little further noted that the bulb outs on the west end might be placed right where the road into the potential hotel property would be located.

 

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