The Depot Street revitalization project is moving forward.
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday to accept a $7.7 million project bid from contractor Summers-Taylor.
The price tag for the city’s portion of the project is more than the $7 million budgeted, but $341,570 less than the original bid thanks to the town working with Summers-Taylor to reduce some costs.
There was discussion over whether or not to accept the bid, but project engineer Dean Helstrom cautioned board members that if they rejected the bid they would not be guaranteed a better bid from another company or any bid at all.
When discussing the numbers, Mayor W.T. Daniels was frank.
“What it amounts to is we are over budget just a little bit,” Daniels said.
However, Greeneville Finance Director Lora Young assuaged any concerns that the city may not be able to handle the extra cost.
“We can manage this project financially at this point,” Young said.
The work to be done under the Summers-Taylor bid is part of the city’s planned Downtown Redevelopment Project which includes, among other things, utility upgrades and streetscape improvements along a stretch of Depot Street from its intersection with Academy Street to near the railroad depot building. Those improvements include creating wider sidewalks and landscaping with a focus on the block of Depot Street between Main and Irish streets as a “festival” location.
Progress was delayed in 2020 as the city took a conservative approach to budgeting due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds for the initial phase were returned to the budget in amendments approved by the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen in November, including funds for a property purchase in the effort to create more downtown parking.
Aldermen Tim Teague said that if the town did not begin the revitalization project soon, it would have to begin some kind of repair work on the street and infrastructure anyway.
“We have to do at least something because we need new utilities either way,” Teague said.
The Greeneville Water Commission in June approved a $1.9 million bid from Portland Utilities Construction for its part of the project. The Water Commission rebid its portion of the project after receiving Summers-Taylor’s proposed $2.9 million cost.
Aldermen Cal Doty, who has been a vocal supporter of the project, reiterated his support Tuesday for accepting the Summers-Taylor bid for the city’s part and beginning the project.
“We need to get this done,” Doty said.
Daniels agreed that the time had come for action.
“This has been on our agenda for 10 or 12 years, and the time has come to make a decision,” Daniels said. “And now we are about to hopefully make this become reality.”
Daniels expressed worry that if the town did not commit to a project soon, Depot Street’s infrastructure would not last much longer.
“To me this is the last chance we have to do this, and if we wait any longer there will be too much deterioration and we will be past the point of no return,” Daniels said.
Doty then made a motion to accept the bid and begin the project. Aldermen Buddy Hawk seconded the motion, and the board voted unanimously to accept the bid from Summers-Taylor and begin the long-awaited project.
Work on the project will begin as soon as possible.
After the measure passed, Doty expressed appreciation for business owners who have already been doing business on Depot Street and want to be a part of the revitalization of downtown.
“I’d like to thank those who have come to this meeting in support of this project and who have already made an investment in Depot Street,” Doty said.
Daniels expressed satisfaction with the board’s action on the project after years of attempts and was optimistic about the future of downtown.
“This is the first time the board has been willing to put our money where our mouth is,” Daniels said “I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time on Depot Street.”