Lewisburg’s city engineer Greg Belcher, with Chapman Technical Group, was at Tuesday’s city council meeting to get approval and the mayor’s signature to begin the first phase of the Caldwell water system repair project. Belcher said the engineers will focus on three locations where pipes had disconnected during the June 23 flood: on Rte. 60, another on Joe Bennett Road and the third at the Caldwell tunnel.
Belcher advised the council that FEMA will not fund anything if it is an upgrade or an improvement, even though it may make better sense to improve the system.
“This will be a standard construction project except that FEMA is involved,” Belcher said. The way FEMA has to operate is to try to keep to the lowest cost and by not making improvements.
Mayor John Manchester said Lewisburg’s interests are in improving the system rather than simply doing what FEMA will pay for. In response, Belcher said that part of his bid proposal process is to design the basis of the bid to reflect what Lewisburg wants done, while also being mindful of FEMA’s cost outlay requirements. The estimated cost range for the three sites is between $150,000 and $285,000. He said the repair project could be completed within 60 days. Under advisement of the city engineer, council approved the notice of award to Chapman to begin the project.
Chapman Technical Group is also overseeing a sinkhole problem behind Lewisburg City Hall. The plan will call for drilling behind and under the building, 125 feet at most, and using radar and seismic equipment to determine the size of the karst cavern that threatens the building with inadequate underlying support. Chapman’s costs to manage the project are estimated at $4,000.
In other business:
• Council approved a resolution to apply for a $200,000 matching grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to upgrade the outdoor lighting for Hollowell and Dorie Miller parks and to replace the city’s concession stand and restrooms at Hollowell. A 50-percent match of $100,000 will come from the city.
Council member Josh Baldwin, reporting for the Parks Commission, announced a few changes are in store for Dorie Miller Park. Safety hazards will be addressed as a first priority, he said, beginning with the removal of the parking lot and the shelter adjacent to Maple Street. Community members have complained that the lot is too close to the roadway, putting children at risk when disembarking from the cars in the lot. A new shelter will be built next spring on the lower level near the play area.
Other park plans include developing access and parking next to the second shelter by the ball park, which will extend from the public works area and from a new access roadway at Maple Street. As for future plans, the Parks Commission is seeking sponsorship and/or grant funding for a new play park, and possibly an overall park-use reconfiguration.
Manchester suggested getting an outside engineering firm’s review of the project plans. “It’s important to do it right,” he said. Baldwin affirmed, but said he didn’t want to slow the process down. However, no action was taken.
• A memorandum of understanding was signed by the mayor concerning an upgrade to the parking lot to the rear of Shuck Memorial Baptist Church. The improvements will allow local residents to use the lot when services are not ongoing at the church. The lot will be completed in the spring.
• Police Chief Tim Stover reported the results of a highway safety program that garnered 130 citations and 77 warning citations over the two month period of the operation. There were 57 seat belt violations, seven DUIs, 12 drivers license suspensions, 67 unlawful drug recoveries, and six cellphone violations.
“Signs are up around town that read ‘Buckle Up – Park the Phone,’ ” he said. “It’s now the law.”
• Interim Fire Chief Matt Carver listed 83 incidents in July and 63 for August. The Lewisburg Volunteer Fire Department was awarded a grant of $176,900 to bolster staffing for the fire department. Designed to attract young candidates to the field, several avenues are being explored to attract the recruitment of firefighters. “In recent years, it’s been hard to get anyone to apply,” he said.
A search for a new fire chief is nearing completion with interviews of two qualified in-house firemen, council member Joseph Lutz reported.
• The city council went into executive session to do a performance review of City Administrator Manchester. No decisions were made while in executive session, stated council member Mark Etten, and the mayor did not participate in the discussion. Manchester, as city administrator, whose last raise was in 2012, will receive a $5,000 raise, which is in line with other city employee awards, Etten said.