Future east walkway improvements to be discussed between DDA, city

City manager proposes DDA pay for future improvements

THREE RIVERS — With the City of Three Rivers about to embark on improvements to the east parking lot elevated walkway, future maintenance of the walkway could fall on the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

Discussions on the upcoming project and future considerations were held by the DDA’s board during their meeting Thursday. City Manager Joe Bippus said while the city will be paying for the upcoming improvements, which are expected to happen next year, he would ask the DDA to save money for future repairs on the structure.

“My proposal to the commission was that the city ought to pay for it, get it taken care of, and then tell the DDA to start saving for the next 10 years or 10 years later when you need to do [maintenance] again,” Bippus said.

The city commission on Sept. 6 approved a $29,100 professional services proposal from Fishbeck from the East Parking Lot Fund of the city’s fund balance to complete plans and specifications for bidding out the contract for improvements. Bippus said the project itself will involve sandblasting and repainting the lower support beams, repairing and installing new railing support posts, sealing cracks in the cement and repainting railings and the fence of the structure, with an estimated cost of $115,000.

“That’s a big investment, and we want to make it last. We built it in 2007, and it just needs maintenance,” Bippus said.

“It’s not in terrible shape, but I don’t want it to get in terrible shape. I want to preserve what we have,” Bippus added later. “All of the railings, they’ve been fading, but then we’ve noticed some structural issues on a couple of them where we’ve had to find ways to fix it. I don’t want those to keep breaking, so I want to get in before that stuff happens and figure out a solution, how we want to maintain it.”

The reasoning behind Bippus’ request for the DDA to start saving money for maintenance was due to the debt service on two previous major downtown projects coming off the DDA’s books in the next couple of years. In 2023 and 2024, the DDA’s debt service on both the mural mall project and the east parking lot construction will be off the books, which would give the agency a bit more room to work with in their budget.

DDA Board chair Andrew George asked what the longevity of the slated improvements was going to be, to which Bippus replied he didn’t know at the moment, but would ask about it. George then suggested having a meeting between him and Bippus about the further repairs.

“I definitely want to have a meeting to figure things out. We’ve talked a little bit after the meeting last month, but just the logistics behind it, and how much that cost looks like for the DDA,” George said.

However, George added he had some concerns about the DDA paying for future improvements, arguing that the walkway is city infrastructure, and isn’t something the DDA should handle.

“Obviously, I have some concerns, for instance I think that’s all an easement back there that belongs to the city, which is city infrastructure. I don’t want to blur the lines, but it’d be like the DDA taking care of the sidewalks downtown – that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; that’s a city infrastructure problem. The east walkway is a city infrastructure problem, not a DDA problem,” George said.

“Now, the walkway, I can understand – the part of East Alley – because that plot of land, that parcel, actually belongs to the DDA, so I can understand us taking on that bridge and things like that. But, as far as the easement that belongs to the city behind the buildings, I’m a little concerned about it, but at the same time I’m a big fan of playing ball. I’d like to work that out with you a bit better to make sure that we’re not saddling ourselves with debt immediately after coming out of it.”

In other business…

  • The board recapped Sept. 4’s HarmonyFest event, with DDA Director Cameron Mains announcing the event did okay in fundraising, adding there was a “big donation that saved us” right at the end of the festival. From sponsors alone, the event raised $4,775, with George saying $3,600 of that total coming from local marijuana businesses. “They’ve been an incredible help, and they really came through for HarmonyFest this year,” George said.
  • The board approved allocating the funds raised from August’s Sass in the City event to the DDA’s fund balance, looking to put the money toward next year’s event. In total, George said, the DDA profited $1,558.48 from an operating cost of $1,500 for this year’s event.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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