Leader Blues

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TOP STORY >> Improvements: Cabot's tax dollars at work

Leader staff writer

Black-and-white signs posted on streets where chunks of asphalt have been cut out and the holes filled with gray gravel let the Cabot voters who passed a one-cent sales tax to improve their streets know that the work has finally started.
“Your tax dollars at work; thanks for your patience,” the signs read.

On Greystone Boulevard, where trucks loaded with construction materials have turned the surface of the street into a washboard, White Paving will be paid $146,000 to lay a gravel base where there wasn’t one before, pour new asphalt and improve the drainage so the road lasts longer.

Also coming soon is a sixth lane on Highway 89 West from Rockwood to the freeway at a cost of about $33,000, and a center turn lane from Rockwood to Northport toward Highway 5 for about $144,000. Gene Summers Construction will do that work.
To save money, city street department employees are repairing the bases on Dietrich Lane, which will be overlaid with asphalt, and Locust Street, which will be widened on the left to accommodate a center turn lane.

Jerrel Maxwell, head of public works, said he wanted to publicly thank his workers for their contribution.

“They’ve worked so hard,” he said. “They’ve bent over backwards to get this done.”

No cost estimate for the asphalt is available at this time.

At the end of 2007, more than two years after city voters approved $2 million in bonds supported by a one-cent tax to pay for street improvements, about $1.5 million of those funds still remained. At that time, the city had paid $175,000 for the right-of-way to extend Elm Street and $250,000 to complete S. Rockwood, which connects Hwy. 5 to Wal-Mart.

And since bond money must be spent within three years or it is used to pay down the debt instead, Maxwell and Mayor Eddie Joe Williams say they intend to use all the money and make it go as far as possible.

“Our goal is to make things better in this city,” Maxwell said.

Williams, who this week took reporters on a tour of the work that is already in progress, said a center turn lane off Hwy. 321 between Hwy. 367 and Nalley Road will ease congestion at that intersection. The road will only be re-striped, not widened, he said and the state, not the city will pay for the work.

Also planned for the bond money is the extension of Elm Street between 4th and 5th Streets. The city condemned the right-of-way for that land in March 2006 after owner Larry Nipper refused to sell it for the price the city council was willing to pay. Nipper asked for $85,000. The council offered $66,000. Nipper got an appraisal for the property and then asked $160,000.
Since his property was condemned, Nipper had to sell it, but the circuit court awarded him $175,000, which was $15,000 more than his highest asking price.

Some members of the current city council have referred to the right-of-way acquisition as “The Nightmare on Elm Street.”
The city has also spent about $20,000 around the public housing development on Cleveland and Galloway, where residents complained in September, during a public meeting to discuss the streets, that the potholes in their neighborhood held rainwater for so long that frog eggs had time to grow into tadpoles and then into frogs.

The biggest road project in the city, a railroad overpass that will connect Hwy. 367 to Hwy. 38, is scheduled to open by early summer. That $7.2 million project is not part of the $2 million voters approved for streets. However, it was part of the total $28 million bond issue that is supported by the same one-cent sales tax.

The city’s part of the mostly federally funded project was about $1 million.