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Erwin BMA discusses next downtown revitalization construction phase

When to begin the third phase of the town’s downtown revitalization project was discussed by the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Nov. 10.
Mark Lafever, public works director for the town, told the board phase three is currently scheduled to begin on Jan. 1. Construction on the third phase, which will take place on Main Avenue from Union to Love streets and Love Street up to Church Street, should be complete by the first of May.
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.
However, according to Alderman Gary Chandler, 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 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.
City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff also said business owners expressed different opinions on the start of phase three.
“We want the merchants to know that we do hear them,” Rosenoff said. “There is a mix between 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.
Lafever told the board he has spoken with Summers-Taylor and was “unofficially” informed that the company would have to rebid the project if it is delayed for a year. Lafever said he is waiting for Summers-Taylor to issue options to the town for six-month and one-year timelines in writing in early December.
“If we back out it is ultimately going to cost the town more money, I’m afraid,” Lafever added.
Rosenoff agreed.
“I see the unit pricing going higher if we don’t begin on that start date,” he said.
Lafever also said that should phase three construction start on Jan. 1, Summers-Taylor is “fairly confident” they can perform the work during the winter months except in cases of severe weather.
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.”
Lafever previously said one of the most important parts of the downtown revitalization project, particularly the second phase, was flood mitigation. For many years the downtown area has been prone to flooding. The installation of a new storm water system, which included a new box culvert on Union Street, in the revitalization efforts will help alleviate nuisance flooding, Lafever said.
“We doubled the size of the storm water structures downtown,” he added.
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The swearing-in ceremony for aldermen-elects Chandler, Virgil Moore and Michael Baker has been scheduled for Dec. 1 at 5 p.m., at Erwin Town Hall.