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Lula skips to phase 3 in downtown project

POSTED: August 12, 2014 12:38 a.m.

Lula is playing leapfrog as it prepares to open bids on the third phase of an effort to spruce up downtown.

The city has scheduled to hold the bid opening Monday on its “streetscape” project, skipping over a second phase that has yet to get funding through a Transportation Enhancement grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Lula used money from the program for the first phase of improvements at Athens and Main streets, then moved on to the second phase, which was approved in 2012. Those improvements were targeted for Main Street between Athens Street and City Hall, a few blocks north at 6055 Main St.

In June 2013, “we were ready to go forward with that and put it out for bid,” City Manager Dennis Bergin said.

But the city put off plans as officials were told funding would be delayed. The latest word is the city might not see funding until August 2015, Bergin said.

“We’re doing phase three and we aren’t asking for any more money because we can’t afford to,” he said. “The price of everything keeps going up.”

The program used to be funded by federal transportation money, but it faded out after Congress passed its Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, a 27-month transportation spending bill in 2012.

The grant typically required a 20 percent match from the governments approved for projects.

Area officials used to gripe about red tape and the time it took to get the money.

In a rare turn of events in October 2011, Oakwood rejected a $100,000 grant designated for a downtown improvement project.

“With all the federal regulations, having to pay for all the engineers, the environmental surveys and all that business, we could probably get the work done for $25,000,” or the same amount the city would have to spend to get the state money, Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said at the time.

Lula has decided to go its own way in funding phase three, which Lula City Council discussed briefly at its Monday night work session.

The $250,000 project, funded through the northeastern Hall County city’s general fund, consists primarily of landscaping and adding sidewalks, parking, and curbs and gutters, Bergin said.

The overall improvement plan has seven phases, “so it would be nice to get another one started,” he said. “It’s a pretty sizable project.”

If all goes well with bidding, construction could start within 45 days.


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