The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed local infrastructure improvements, including Memorial Park, Fire Station #5 and West Broad Street, and transportation and housing funding on Tuesday evening at their scheduled work session.
Memorial Park Improvements
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax project administrator, Diana Jackson, and Alfred Benesch & Company senior project manager, Erik Hammarlund, represented the two SPLOST project concepts. The first project Jackson revisited was the SPLOST 2020 Project 16, pertaining to improvements in Memorial Park such as pedestrian safety measures, playground equipment and picnic shelter improvements, and pond infrastructure and habitat restoration.
The plan was originally approved by the commission in May 2018 and has since been updated to include cost estimates and order of improvement priority, according to a survey conducted of citizen feedback. The project is expected to cost almost $5.8 million.
District 10 Commissioner Mike Hamby, suggested implementing a pedestrian path to the park for safe, easy access. ACC Gov Manager Blaine Williams said they look at doing a cost estimate on doing so and present it to the commission.
District 7 Commissioner John Culpepper questioned the necessity of the pond improvements, as it was recently dredged in 2014, to ensure it doesn’t need to be restored again in another nine years. Jackson and Williams said that the forebay will be dredged, as opposed to the pond itself, to ensure a more long-term solution to sediment collection in the pond.
The project will be considered by the commission at the April regular session.
Broad Street Construction
TSPLOST 2018 Project 13 covered the construction on West Broad Street, including the implementation of a roundabout and an increase in green space. Construction is expected to begin in January 2025 and should be completed by June 2026.
According to Hammarlund, the roundabout should increase vehicular safety and direct the flow of traffic. District 6 Commissioner Jesse Houle brought to attention the issue of bicyclists in the roundabout. Jackson said the idea of a multi-use pathway is a possible solution. The commission will consider the project implementation at the April 4 meeting.
Fire Station #5
Daniel Garren, a SPLOST project manager, presented the third SPLOST project. SPLOST 2020 Project 6 covers the replacement plans for fire station #5. The commission has already approved the plan and the project has received public input.
The plan is proposing to relocate the fire station to cover southeast areas of Athens-Clarke County that currently are not under the protection of a fire station and mitigate overlap with fire station #7 .
The commission will vote on site selection criteria in either a March or April meeting, with studies for potential sites expected to begin in the fall of 2023.
HUD Funding Recommendations
Athens-Clarke County Housing and Community Development Department assistant airector, Melinda Lord, presented the fiscal year 2024 community development block grant funding recommendations. The funds are allocated with 20% directed towards the Housing and Community Development Administration, 15% to public services, and the remaining 65% to be used for affordable housing, economic development, public facilities and other improvements.
This past year, the Housing and Urban Development Department received 23 project requests and approved 16 projects for recommendation. HCD is proposing to use 15% of the fiscal year 2024 CDBG budget for public service activities, which “strengthen human resource capacity, expand access to human services, and ensure that services and programs are accessible to everyone.”
The FY24 CDBG funding becomes available July 1, 2023 and the commission can consider the project at the voting session at the scheduled April 4 meeting.
Transit Department director Ryan Solchenberger went over the funding process for the department. The ACC Transit Department receives funding from Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects, reimbursements from the Federal Transit Administration, fare revenue, general fund investment and advertising.
Solchenberger said the ACC transit department is looking to add routes and an express service within the next five to ten years. With the incorporation of two transit systems, the ACC transit department hopes to collaborate better on scheduling routes, identifying areas of overlap, and expand bus services for both Athens citizens and UGA students and faculty.
Solid Waste Department director Suki Janssen presented to the commission the issue of landfill capacity. The ACC landfill is in need of expansion as it has been growing quicker than originally anticipated. Trash collection services from other counties have been using the ACC landfill, and equipment malfunctions have caused the landfill to exceed capacity sooner.
The land for phase five of the landfill was bought in 2012 and construction was completed in 2019. Phase five is open and expected to hold 38 years of waste, however, waste collection has increased over 12%. To alleviate some of these issues, department staff will work with the Finance Department on budget challenges and solutions, as well as complete an estimate for construction of new cells with a timeline for funding.