Athens City Council members voted Monday to preserve a bit of the city's history, but it wasn't unanimous.
“That's a hard no from me,” District 3 Councilman Frank Travis said during the meeting when voting on a proposal to allow the city's Public Works Department to expose brick under asphalt in downtown Athens. The precise area is on Market Street from the CSX line to the crosswalk at the intersection of Market and Marion streets.
“I don't understand the aesthetic value of exposing the brick,” Travis said, adding it would also create an uneven surface because the exposed brick would be at a lower elevation than the new asphalt on either side.
Mayor Ronnie Marks and Public Works Director James Rich said the value would simply be historic because it would restore a part of the city's past.
Four council members voted for the measure, though there was no estimated cost attached to the project. The method in which the asphalt would be removed was also not entirely settled.
Rich said it could take two weeks to remove the asphalt, but that would depend on if it had bonded to the brick. If that's the case, the city would have to purchase an asphalt heater at a cost of about $17,000.
Tuscaloosa-based Asphalt Restoration Co. used the asphalt heating method last month when the first 30-yard section of brick was uncovered. Rich said if the city had to purchase the asphalt heating machine, it could be used for other purposes like patching potholes or utility cuts.
“It's unexplored territory, but we'll give it our best shot to expose it,” Rich said of the project.
Councilman Joseph Cannon expressed concern about the cost of the project. He told his fellow council members he wanted Street Department Supervisor Dolph Bradford to have the power to “say stop” if it looked like the project was turning into “a money pit.”
Rich had previously expressed concern that streets around The Square may have significant damage to brick because of utility cuts. Council members have said they are pleased with how the small section of uncovered brick looks, but there is a possibility other bricks may be damaged.
“My concern is if we start getting all these unknown issues that can come up,” Cannon said. “I want Dolph to be able to stop it before we say to stop it.”
Rich said he would bring a dollar amount back to the council at “an appropriate time.”
Prior to the regular meeting, Athens resident Kelly Range implored the council to scrap the brick decision. He asked the council why it would waste money on “a science experiment.”
Elsewhere Monday, the council voted to amend the city's downtown parking plan to add handicapped-accessible parking spaces and make repairs at the southwest corner of Marion and Washington streets, the northwest corner of Marion and Market streets by Limestone Drug and two spaces on the west side of Jefferson Street near U.G. White.
Rich told the council the city had received feedback on work performed on The Square using a Transportation Alternatives Program grant, specifically that the city needed more handicapped-accessible spots, particularly for vans.
The council also approved a resolution authorizing Marks to issue a task order to stripe parking around The Square.
In other road-related matters, the council voted to enter into a resolution with the the state and Alabama Department of Transportation on a project to widen Sanderfer Road from Hine to Jefferson streets.
The road-widening project was necessitated by the Toyota Boshoku project now under construction on West Sanderfer Road. The widening would add a center turn lane and a right-hand turn lane into the plant.
Engineer Taz Morell of Morell Engineering told the council the project would use existing city right of way, though some driveways may also be affected. Morell said most of the widening would occur on the south side of Sanderfer Road, as opposed to the north side, in order to minimize the impact to residents.
The work is being made possible by a grant, which will reimburse the city 100 percent if the project comes in at or below cost. Anything over the estimated cost would be paid by the city.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Reappointed Randi Harbin to the Houston Memorial Library board of directors for a four-year term expiring Aug. 15, 2023;
• Granted a special use permit to Verizon Wireless to modify equipment at 204 Commercial Drive;
• Approved a resolution granting D&L Seafood & Grill a retail beer and wine license;
• Approved a resolution granting Mozza Pizzeria & Sports Bar a retail beer and wine license; and
• Approved an additional $5,000 appropriation to Athens Main Street to cover operational expenses.
The council will meet again Monday, Aug. 26, at City Hall.