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City Considering Pursuing Grant To Repair, Add New Sidewalks On Oak Avenue

Officials for the City of Sulphur Springs anticipates applying to Texas Department of Agriculture for a Texas Community Development Block Grant Program 2020 Downtown Revitalization Program Grant. The city anticipates the funding would be used for sidewalks on Oak Avenue.

At the July 7, 2020 meeting of Sulphur Springs City Council, GrantWorks was set to be the TDA qualified administrator for the grant, and will only collect a fee if the city receives the grant. At that time, city staff indicated the funding would be used for one of two potential projects, replacing water and sewer lines on Tomlinson Street or for sidewalks on Oak Avenue.

After further research for both projects, the infrastructure upgrades on Tomlinson were determined to be much more expensive than the potential grant funding the city is eligible to apply for. The cost to replace or repair extremely old water lines and add new tie-ins was estimated at $1.5 million.

Oak Avenue sidewalk near the property on which a new senior citizens center is scheduled to be constructed in the near future.

“The grant parameters are within $50,000 and $500,000 of what they will award,” Sulphur Springs Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski said.

The program requires a minimum 3.5 percent cash match, which on a $500,000 project would be $17,500. The city anticipates using in-house engineering staff to cover the additional costs. The city engineer is still working on the project to determine the full scope and cost of the project. The total cost could be less than the maximum $500,000 allowable grant request. That would mean the city’s required matching amount would be less as well, which would provide improvements to the downtown area, Niewiadomski noted.

The Oak Avenue project would be a better fit for the grant program, as 51 percent of the project has to be ADA focused. The project would enhance the “pedestrian network” around downtown by adding sidewalks in areas that have none and replacing deteriorating walkways in others. The sidewalks would be more ADA focused and oriented for accessibility, to enable someone with mobility issues, including someone in a wheelchair, to access the downtown area from Oak Avenue. The funding would include ADA ramps and crosswalks as well.

People could walk from the new Senior Citizens Center, to be constructed on Oak Avenue, to downtown. Easier walking access to other parking areas along Oak Avenue to downtown would be possible, officials noted during a public hearing conducted via Zoom Tuesday evening, July 21, 2020.

Officials invited anyone with other ideas, needs or additional concerns regarding the downtown area to voice them.

The application deadline is September 1, 2020. Niewiadomski anticipates presenting to the City Council at the August council meeting a proposed outline the scope and cost of the project. The application would be made available for public view upon request.

Projects will be scored in September. Officials hope to be notified by Christmas whether they city will be awarded a grant, although the exact time frame is unknown as the work schedules for TDA employees have also been impacted by COVID-19. Those approved to receive grants would have 2 years to construct their projects once a contract is struck with TDA.

Author: Faith Huffman

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