The City of Athens will start work on its ATRIP grant project for Washington Street in August. The ATRIP project is resurfacing Washington Street from Hoffman Street to U.S. 72. That includes the stretch of Washington Street that runs through downtown Athens. The $920,000 project will be funded with $736,000 from the ATRIP grant. Limestone County has allocated $26,000 for the small section of the street that is not in the city limits.
During a July Athens City Council meeting, City Planner Mac Martin presented a work schedule for the downtown Athens section. Since the City of Athens has plans to make downtown more pedestrian friendly and handicap accessible, and Athens Utilities has to bore under the street to provide underground electricity to the Limestone County Courthouse, city crews will start this part of the project prior to paving.
Martin said the work includes burying new infrastructure to the courthouse, widening the sidewalk on the courthouse side of The Square, constructing new handicap facilities to meet ADA standards, and constructing pedestrian islands, also called bulb outs, and crosswalks at the two intersections on Washington Street. Electrical cabinets will be on both corners on the south side of the courthouse and on the northeast corner, based on conversations with Limestone County.
“With the installation of infrastructure to the courthouse, an initial phase of facilities to supply electricity to events held on The Square will be installed, with full buildout of these facilities to come in future phases,” Martin said.
Here is the proposed work schedule. This is subject to change, however, depending on unforeseen problems and weather conditions.
● Phase 1 work is scheduled for Aug. 3-7 at the northwest corner of Washington and Jefferson streets. This includes making room for underground utilities. After utility work is completed, Public Works will finish work on Oct. 19-Nov. 20.
● Phase 2 is Aug. 10-21 at the southwest corner of Washington and Marion streets.
● Phase 3 is Aug. 24-Sept. 11 at the southeast corner of Washington and Marion streets.
● Phase 4 is Sept. 14-Oct. 2 at the northwest corner of Washington and Marion streets.
● Phase 5 is Oct. 5-16 at the southwest corner of Washington and Jefferson Streets.
● Phase 6 is Oct. 19-Nov. 20 along the south side of the courthouse, where the sidewalk will be made handicap accessible and widened.
● Phase 7 will be in February when the Alabama Department of Transportation oversees resurfacing Washington Street through downtown.
Martin said city crews will have small work zones to lessen interference with downtown merchants’ business. The paving will be in February to avoid interference with merchants’ Christmas season.
The Spirit of Athens Board has opted to delay the annual Athens Grease Festival, usually held in September, to June 2016 since there will not be adequate electricity for the event and since Washington Street will have construction zones.
The work, however, is not expected to interfere with other downtown events this year, such as Athens Storytelling Festival, Christmas Open House, Reliance Bank Christmas Parade and Sippin’ Cider.
In addition to the ATRIP grant, the city has also received a $391,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant to transform the remainder of The Square into a more pedestrian friendly and handicap accessible area. Currently, there is no signalization for pedestrians crossing in the middle of streets from the retail side of The Square to the courthouse and back. This project will include the installation of islands to create signalized crossing to and from the courthouse, ADA compliant sidewalks, handicap parking near the courthouse, energy efficient lighting and landscaping.
The city is working with the Limestone County Commission to install decorative and more energy efficient light poles on the interior of the courthouse lawn and throughout the TAP project area downtown.
Three organizations are investing in this project since the city and county are working together to enhance downtown, especially by providing electrical buildouts for vendors for who need electricity during events held on The Square. The Spirit of Athens Board, Athens-Limestone Tourism and Athens Rotary have committed $15,000 each for a total of $45,000 toward the overall project.
SOA Executive Director Trisha Black said these safety and aesthetic improvements will increase pedestrian traffic downtown and allow all citizens to enjoy downtown Athens.
The TAP portion of the project still is being developed in conjunction with ALDOT, and city officials expect work on it to start in 2016.
Athens is one of the top places in Alabama for first-time homebuyers.
NerdWallet, an online consumer advocate business, ranks Athens in the Top 20 for First-Time Homebuyers in Alabama. Athens ranked No. 20.
Here is a link to the rankings and story from NerdWallet: Story On NerdWallet's Rankings For First-Time Homebuyers
Congratulations to our 10U All-Star Team for finishing 5th in the USSSA State Tournament.
The vote regarding additional ad valorem tax to fund capital improvements for the Athens City School System will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To read the wording that will be on the ballot, click here: Sample Ballot
To see the capital plan for Athens City Schools, click here: ACS Capital Plan
Only voters living in the city limits of Athens will vote on this issue.
The last day to register to vote is Aug. 10. To register to vote, go to the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex and see the Limestone County Board of Registrars.
The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Aug. 20. To obtain an absentee ballot, call John Hamilton at City Hall at 256-233-8729 or come to temporary City Hall at 1806 Wilkinson Street, second floor. Ballots are being printed, and the City will announce when absentee ballots become available. In the meantime, voters can call Mr. Hamilton and leave a request for one.
Voters who move within the city limits of Athens and do not update voter registration information should vote a provisional ballot at the polling location for the new address.
City leaders expect improving and reopening a road closed in the 1980s will open up an area of Athens for commercial and residential development.
On Friday, June 19, the City of Athens, along with its Public Works Department and the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, held a ribbon-cutting celebration for the reopening of Old Decatur Road. The road connects to French Farms Boulevard near Zaxby’s, opening up about 200 acres between a heavily-traveled commercial district on U.S. 72 near Wal-Mart and Brookhill Elementary to the south.
Work to replace the bridge over French Mill Creek on Cambridge Lane is expected to start the week of June 29. Cambridge Lane from U.S. 72 to Newby Road will be closed to through traffic for approximately six months.
This is an ATRIP grant project.
Students and parents participating in a program to combat school tardiness, absenteeism and drop-out rates will work this summer in the dirt.
The students and parents who are part of the Truancy Intervention Program are going to volunteer on Tuesdays at the Athens Farmers Market Community Garden in downtown Athens. Groups will come from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4:30 p.m. starting with an orientation on June 9 and volunteering in the gardens beginning June 16 and ending Aug. 11.
The Truancy Intervention Program is collaboration between Athens State University and the Limestone County Juvenile Court. TIP acts as a liaison between students, parents, teachers, school administrators, truancy officers, court and community agencies. Athens State criminal justice professor Quanda Stevenson created TIP in 2012. It is an interactive after-school and summer program requiring children ages 5 to 18 years old who are identified by their school, parent, family court, or other community agencies to participate in a program linking them to educational services outside of the school setting.