A discussion about historical preservation between an Athens resident and the City Council dominated a large part of Monday's City Council meeting, though a resolution was not decided.
Scott Marshall has been spearheading a movement to uncover the original brick streets around the Limestone County Courthouse Square. He believes returning the streets to their original surface would preserve the historical charm and bring back a unique feature to downtown Athens.
The discussion was rekindled because the council was prepared to vote on amending the city's paving contract with Reed Contracting Services to add the streets around The Square. Council members ultimately decided to table the measure to re-examine the brick issue.
The decision to table the paving came shortly after Council President Harold Wales said he felt there were too many delays in paving projects.
“We need to talk to some representatives from Reed,” he said. “I think we're being put last. I don't think we're getting a timely effort out of them.”
Mayor Ronnie Marks was fine with the council taking a little longer to examine the issue, but he urged council members to act quickly on their decision, especially in light of Wales' concerns over paving delays.
“Let's not let this paving contractor leave our community and then try to get back on their schedule,” he said.
Marshall wanted an opportunity to invite Tuscaloosa-based Asphalt Restoration Co. to Athens Tuesday morning in an effort to remove a portion of asphalt and expose some brick. He invited council members to view the demonstration so they could be better informed when they make their decision.
“These bricks are in better shape than anybody here can imagine,” he told the council Monday. “Everybody is tired of The Square being rough, but let's look at the brick before we do a paving project. We've never carried out the investigative work.”
Wales and Dolph Bradford, the city's street supervisor, were both at Tuesday's demonstration when the asphalt was removed. Wales said he was leaning toward paving The Square Monday, but after seeing the condition of the bricks Tuesday, he's leaning toward preservation.
“Those bricks were in great shape,” he said. “They used concrete to bind the bricks together and the mortar joints were just great.”
The section uncovered was about six feet wide and 20 feet long. Wales hopes all the council members take time to see the bricks firsthand before making a decision. He said it's possible he might vote to expend more city funds to save the bricks.
“It's worth saving because it's part of our history,” he said.
Bradford said the uncovered bricks “looked pretty good,” but he was undecided on whether it would be a worthy endeavor to pursue.
Bradford explained that when the streets were milled previously, many of the bricks were damaged and scarred. In addition to the damage, he said it would take extensive cleaning to restore their luster.
“We still have a lot of safety concerns because those brick streets were made for horse and buggy,” he said. “We don't want people falling on it.”
Another issue would be a difference between the elevation of a brick street and the new curbs and gutters around The Square. Bradford the look of the brick would be nice, but it's also imperative that water drain correctly.
He wouldn't mind seeing brick streets around The Square, but said it would take millions of dollars to make it happen.
“It's just not feasible if it comes down to doing it within a budget,” he said.