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Intersection decision splits City Council

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

Whether to move forward with preliminary-engineering services for an intersection-improvement project resulted in a split vote by the Lincolnton City Council Thursday night.

Planning Director Laura Simmons’ request to engage TGS Engineers to provide such services within 90 days for a cost of $20,000 was approved in a 3-1 vote, with council member Devin Rhyne opposed.

Rhyne noted that his opposition lay with the project as a whole rather than the individual contract.

Council members previously approved improvements to the intersection of East Main Street and Generals Boulevard, having now received two Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) grants for the project in the amount of $582,000. This total includes a local match, and Simmons said North Carolina Department of Transportation staff plan to have the grant agreement ready in the spring.

Rhyne’s hesitancy, he said, has been with the fact that the property is not owned by the city, and he questioned what sort of improvement work the city should conduct on a state highway.

Simmons explained to council members that a closer look at the proposed project has resulted in several unanswered questions, which has led her and planning staff to wonder if the grant funding will fully cover the scope of the project.

Some of the uncertainties she listed included whether all of the proposed improvements and relocated utilities will fit within the existing state right of way, whether the city will be required by NCDOT to mill and repave the intersection after installation of the improvements and whether NCDOT will require the city to install medians to separate opposing lanes.

In a memo to council members, she said that one of the staff’s goals is to replace the existing traffic-signal system with steel poles and mast arms and to eliminate overhead wiring.

“With the project cost uncertainties, we are not able to ensure this can be achieved without a cost overrun,” she added.

As such, Simmons made the recommendation to engage a firm to do a right-of-way survey so a more reliable cost estimate could be gained prior to entering into the grant agreement.

Leonard Fletcher of TGS Engineers was on hand for Thursday night’s meeting, and he added that doing such a study would also give the city more leverage in brokering a deal with NCDOT.

In other City Council action:

  • Council members unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance that will allow motorcycle sales as a permitted use in the central-business district.
  • Council members unanimously approved a $10,000 fireworks contract with East Coast Pyrotechnics for the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration.
  • Council members signed off on a resolution of intent for commitment of matching-grant funds for recycling containers. The match for the city, which began collecting recyclables this month as opposed to contracting the work out due to expected cost savings, will be $75,000.
  • Council members unanimously approved a request for official action to set the 2013 municipal election filing fees.

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