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An Athens neighborhood near East Pryor Street will soon get the sidewalk they have been dreaming of.

City Council members voted 4-0 Monday to approve a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with Premier Structures to extend a sidewalk along Pryor Street to U.S. 31 then north to Juniper Circle, said Public Works Director James Rich.

The project will take 60 working days.

The new sidewalk should make walking to school much safer for many school children in the area, officials said.

"I am excited to announce funding for the project on Pryor and for the sidewalk project to be constructed on U.S. 31 north to the apartments (on Juniper Circle) and south to the middle school area," Mayor Ronnie Marks said.

Council members voting for the project included District 3 Council President Frank Travis, District 1 Councilman Chris Seibert, District 5 Councilman Wayne Harper and District 2 Councilman Harold Wales. There will be no one representing District 4 until after the next municipal election.

The project budget is $493,905 and will be paid for with a Transportation Alternatives Project grant.

The council also authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with Morell Engineering for construction, engineering and inspection services, or CE&I. The budget for CE&I is $74,086 and will be funded by the city's TAP project fund, just like the sidewalk installation.

Construction of the sidewalk should begin in six to 12 weeks, Rich said. Weather and other factors could change the start date, he said. The completion date will be set by the contract, which is not yet available.

Several years ago, some East Pryor residents asked a previous council for a sidewalk, and the council at the time agreed to do it. However, after the municipal election, the makeup of the council changed and the project was set aside.

The residents had wanted the sidewalk to ensure the safety of pedestrians, including students who had to walk to Athens High School (now Athens Middle School) off U.S. 31.

When a mother from the East Pryor neighborhood asked a more recent council for a sidewalk, several council members were agreeable and Marks looked into it. In 2017, the city even obtained a grant to install the sidewalk.

However, when school officials decided to build a new Athens High School further north on U.S. 31, the East Pryor sidewalk and other sidewalks serving it had to wait until roads and intersections in the area were reconfigured for school traffic, Rich said.

With the new high school built and the roads to it now configured, the East Pryor sidewalk to U.S. 31 and Juniper Circle will soon be underway.

— See Thursday's edition of The News Courier for more on the Athens City Council meeting.

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