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Lula nearing budget as it wraps up downtown work
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Lula is cutting it close on dollars as it wraps up a downtown improvements project.

The North Hall city had set a $167,171 budget for the work, which consists of sidewalks, parking and other “streetscape” efforts, and now, because of cost overruns, is near that mark.

“We’re taking up all the ($13,500) contingency money with all the changes we’ve done, so we’re going to be close to being at budget,” Mayor Milton Turner told City Council, holding its monthly meeting Monday night.

Unforeseen drainage issues have created extra costs.

For example, In digging around, “we found an old septic tank ... that we had to fill in with gravel,” Turner said.

“Let’s hope we don’t find something else that we didn’t anticipate,” Councilman Mordecai Wilson said. “You never know when you’re digging.”

“Well, they’re hopefully done digging,” Turner said of the contractor’s work.

Still, engineers originally estimated the work at $195,000, he said.

The bulk of the work has been finished. With other tasks remaining, the work should be finished around the start of the year, the mayor said.

The project is funded by the city’s special purpose local option sales tax money. An unexpected culvert replacement on Carter Alley, stemming from the downtown work, was paid for out the city’s general fund.

The work is actually the third phase in a series of projects Lula has been working on for years to revitalize downtown.

The first phase involved building Veterans Park on Main Street. The park features a decorative water fountain and bricks laid in honor of veterans.

Lula had hoped to spruce up Main Street between Athens Street and City Hall in a second phase, but the project got tied up in delays.

The city was hoping to fund that work through a Transportation Enhancement grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

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

But the city put off plans as officials were told funding would be delayed. The city might not see funding until summer of 2015, Bergin said this past summer.

“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 Transportation Enhancement 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.

Lula’s overall improvement plan has seven phases, “so it would be nice to get another (phase) started,” Bergin said earlier this year. “It’s a pretty sizable project.”

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