By Jean Cole
Athens City Council members have agreed to hire a company to assess a road and bridge project on Old Decatur Road that they believe would open up commercial development on U.S. 72.
Council member voted 5-0 Monday to approve an agreement with Morell Engineering Inc. for construction of a road and bridge over Town Creek. Morell will assess what is required for the road and bridge, which are at the heart of some proposed residential and commercial development in the area.
Local developer Bill Ming is planning to build a senior living residential development at the end of the Old Decatur Road dead end. He plans to combine residential and commercial development in the area. Phase 1, called French Farm Villas, will include a 60-unit apartment building for residents age 55 and older. Phase 2 will include additional residential structures. Phase 3 will contain commercial and office space.
The development would reopen Old Decatur Road, which closed in the 1980s after the bridge was condemned. A new bridge and refurbished road would provide access to about 200 acres of undeveloped property behind Brookhill Elementary School, which could be used for residential or commercial development.
Zimmerman Development of Springfield, Mo., will pay $30,000 of its $300,000 commitment to the project upfront for the Morell’s study. If accepted by the council, the city would contribute $400,000 to the road and bridge project.
Public Works Director James Rich said the project is expected to begin after the first of the year and be completed in a year.
Councilman Harold Wales asked the mayor from which city fund the city portion would be paid and the mayor said he did not yet know.
Marks said the council has committee d, by resolution, to do the project. He assured Wales the money would be there.
“This will open up Old Decatur Road to development,” Marks said. “It will be a revenue stream and we have made a commitment.”
Wales said, “We are half way into 2014 for commitments and I want to know where this will come from… It is very important to me that we build these sidewalks all over town. I am committed to this bridge and street but I’m just as committed to the sidewalks.”
City Clerk Annette Barnes said she would know by September what the funding source would be. The city’s current fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and the 2014 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.