Leader Blues

Friday, May 02, 2008

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville to spend Gravel Ridge money

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

What to do with a million dollars? That was the question before the Jacksonville City Council Thursday night.
The city had been holding back about that much in anticipation of annexing Gravel Ridge, but that community opted to join Sherwood instead.

“We have no deadline on spending this money,” Mayor Tommy Swaim told the council, “but it is one-time money, so it can’t be used on salaries. It needs to be used on capital improvement projects.”

The mayor presented the council with four major road projects ranging from $2.1 million to just under $500,000 that the money could help fund.

“We’ve had these four projects in mind for quite a while, and they need to be done sooner or later,” the mayor said.

The project ideas include a 2,200-foot extension of Oneida south toward the proposed North Belt Loop.

“This project would help with flooding with the area and give us earlier access to land the Stone Ridge developer is going to give the city for a park. The extension would run from Main Street south to Oneida, giving the city better access to North Lake subdivision.

Looking at the map, Alderman Terry Sansing said that the extension would also open up a lot of land for development even though drainage and flooding would be issues.

The cost of the project is estimated at $2.18 million. More than half of that is for a needed bridge over the Bayou Meto. “We can probably get some bridge construction money from the county to help us,” the mayor said.

Another option the council looked at was the realignment of West Main Street to take out dangerous double curves. The estimated cost of the project is $920,330. The project would involving a new 2,100-foot portion of Main Street and the placement of a large four-lane box culvert, effectively moving a segment of West Main Street to the south. This would also open up some land for development.

A third project the council looked at was extending Emma Street north from West Main Street to General Samuels. This would be a 1,400-foot extension, opening up land for development and giving residents another way to move between Main and General Samuels Road. The cost is estimated at $471,110.

Another possible use for the Gravel Ridge money is to make the intersection of West Main and Harris Road safer by adding a traffic signal light and doing some necessary roadwork.

“This is a very busy intersection,” the mayor said, “and the site of fatalities in the past. We are going to have to fix this intersection sooner or later.” The estimated cost of the project is $463,174.

City Administrator Jay Whisker added that none of the estimates include the cost of buying needed property for the required rights-of-way.

“These are four projects we have been looking at. This doesn’t mean there aren’t others,” the mayor said.

And other projects are what Alderman Bob Stroud had in mind. “These are all good projects and I wish we could do them all right now. But we need to look at the biggest bang for our bucks for our residents to see…something downtown,” he said.

Stroud added that he’d like to look at some other things before voting.

The mayor reiterated that the city was not under any deadline and not locked into any one project.