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BMA votes to move forward with third phase of revitalization project

The third phase of the Town of Erwin’s downtown revitalization project will soon begin.
The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a notice to proceed during a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Dec. 8, at Erwin Town Hall. All members were present at the meeting.
Prior to the vote, Gary Tysinger with the engineering firm Tysinger, Hampton & Partners told the board that phase three would encompass Main Avenue in downtown Erwin from Union Street, where phase two left off, to Love Street, then up Love Street to Church Street.
“This last part is really tied to phase two,” Tysinger said. “… I would encourage you to start at the first of the year. A lot of the work can be done even if the weather is bad.”
According to information shared with the board by Tysinger, the cost of phase three for the town is approximately $830,000. Utility construction costs, which will be paid by Erwin Utilities, is approximately $106,000.
Tysinger also reminded the board that phase three was bid out at the same time as phase two. The bid for construction of both phases was awarded to Summers-Taylor, Inc.
The first phase of the revitalization project, which covered Main Avenue from Second to Gay streets, was completed in September 2013. The second phase, which covered Main Avenue from Gay to Union streets, as well as Union from Main to Nolichucky avenues, was completed in September 2014.
During the board’s Nov. 10 meeting, some concerns were heard from downtown business owners regarding continuing the downtown revitalization project in January. Alderman Gary Chandler told the board during that meeting that some business owners in the downtown district have expressed concerns over the third phase beginning so soon after the second phase. Construction of the second phase did not begin until May 2014, giving business owners almost eight months to recoup revenues lost while construction of the first phase took place, Chandler said. Starting construction of the third phase in January 2015 gives business owners only four months during which a section of Main Avenue is not closed for construction.
“Some of the businesses owners were hoping for more time between phases,” Chandler previously said. “They would like to regain some of the revenue they lost during phase one and two. Some wanted a year. Others said they could get by not starting in January, but three or four months later.”
Chandler also said there were some merchants who approved of going forward with phase three on Jan. 1.
Also during the Nov. 10 meeting, City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff said business owners expressed different opinions on the start of phase three.
“We want the merchants to know that we do hear them,” Rosenoff previously said. “There is a mix between continue going at the pace we’re going … then other talk about postponing, either starting in the springtime or waiting six months or a year. We want to do our due diligence and tackle any questions they have.”
However, Rosenoff went on to say that because phases two and three were bid out and awarded at the same time, delaying the project for a significant period of time could result in having to rebid the project. This, Rosenoff said, would alter the cost of phase three and it would most likely increase. Summers-Taylor, Inc., won the bid for phases two and three.
During the Dec. 8 meeting, Tysinger echoed Rosenoff’s previous comments.
“Rebidding is a scary chance for the town,” Tysinger said. “You could get a different contractor, which could cause the third phase to look different from the first two. … The project has been seamless so far.”
During the Nov. 10 meeting, Mayor Doris Hensley suggested the town proceed as scheduled with the Jan. 1 start date until the town receives more information from Summers-Taylor.
“I feel for the business owners,” Hensley said. “All of this is for progress. I know it hurts.”
After hearing from Tysinger on Monday, Alderwoman Sue Jean Wilson made a motion to approve the notice to proceed with construction of phase three. Alderman Michael Baker seconded Wilson’s motion. The board then voted unanimously to approve the notice to proceed.
In other business, the board unanimously approved Resolution No. 1214-14, which authorized Erwin Utilities to borrow up to $4 million for repairs and improvements to the company’s wastewater facility.
Lee Brown, general manager of Erwin Utilities, told the board the loan is for 30 years at 1.5 percent. He also said indebtedness incurred by the company must come before the BMA for approval.
The last time the facility was upgraded was 1988, according to Brown.
After hearing from Brown, Alderman Virgil Moore made a motion to approve the resolution. Moore’s motion was seconded by Baker, then unanimously approved by the board.
The board also unanimously voted to table a vote on the first reading of Ordinance No. 676-14, which would allow the use of public sidewalks and areas for outdoor dining downtown.
This ordinance was approved by the Erwin Planning Commission during a meeting on Nov. 20.
According to the ordinance, sidewalk dining is only allowed in the downtown overlay district, which encompasses the area of Second Street to Iona Street and Elm Avenue to Nolichucky Avenue. The ordinance also limits sidewalk dining to restaurants.
“Restaurant shall be defined for the purposes of outdoor dining on public property as any building kept, used, maintained, advertised and held out to the public as a place where food is prepared and served,” the ordinance states.
The ordinance also limits the hours when both food and beverages can be served and consumed from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“No serving or consumption of food or beverage shall occur within the permitted sidewalk dining area after 11 p.m.,” the ordinance also states. “No cooking or food preparation shall be conducted on the sidewalk at any time.”
Downtown restaurants who choose to have sidewalk dining must maintain a 4-foot unobstructed pedestrian way at all times, according to the ordinance. Table umbrellas are not permitted to cross into this 4-foot pedestrian way.
Also required by the ordinance is a $1 million commercial liability insurance policy for each restaurant, which also names the town as an additional insured party.
During a discussion of the ordinance at Monday’s meeting, Hensley said it included permission for alcohol to be served and consumed on the sidewalks.
“Out of respect to others I don’t think we should allow that,” she said. “Some people voted against liquor-by-the-drink.”
The board discussed omitting the section regarding alcohol consumption from the ordinance and voting on the first reading at Monday’s meeting; however, town attorney Thomas Seeley, III, advised the board to table the ordinance and send it back to the planning commission to be discussed again, then resubmitted to the BMA for approval.
Wilson motioned to table the first reading of the ordinance, which was seconded by Alderman Gary Chandler. The board then unanimously agreed to table the ordinance.
The board also discussed holding another workshop to discuss liquor-by-the-drink and package stores for either Dec. 18 or Dec. 19, at 3:30 p.m.
The board held its first workshop regarding the governing of liquor-by-the-drink and package stores during a work session on Nov. 18.
Referendums to allow liquor-by-the-drink and package stores in the town passed during the Nov. 4 election. Liquor-by-the-drink passed with a 760-552 margin, while the package store referendum passed with a 776-534 margin.
Topics such as distance from schools, churches, etc. was discussed, as were how many package stores should be permitted to operate in the town.