After much debate, city takes ownership of portion of S. Main
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 7:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 7:13 p.m.
The city will take over ownership of a stretch of South Main Street where future construction plans include a roundabout and a reduction in travel lanes.
After much debate and one failed vote on Thursday, city commissioners voted 5-2 to take over ownership of Main from University Avenue south to 16th Avenue. Mayor Ed Braddy and Todd Chase were in dissent.
The decision to assume ownership of that portion from county government came after a vote to take over ownership of a longer stretch of Main — from University Avenue south to Williston Road — failed 4-3, with Braddy, Chase, Susan Bottcher and Yvonne Hinson-Rawls in opposition.
On the stretch of road the city will now own, Gainesville has $1.2 million plans to construct a roundabout at the intersection with Depot Avenue. Depending on commission support at a future meeting, that project could go out to bid in a few months.
Near Depot Park and the area of the planned Cade Museum, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency also is in the planning stages of a road project that would include a reduction in travel lanes from two to one in each direction, pedestrian crosswalks and on-street parking. That project could stretch to South 10th Avenue or possibly farther to South 16th Avenue.
It was uncertain if those plans would proceed under county ownership.
Michael Fay, a manager with the county Public Works Department, said the county did not support the design changes. He later clarified his comments amid questioning from city commissioners to say that was the opinion of the county engineer and the issue had not reached the full County Commission.
The state required that local government assume ownership and maintenance of South Main Street because of the project a few years back to reduce travel lanes between North Eighth Avenue and Depot Avenue.
Prior to Thursday’s vote, the city already had responsibility for maintaining Main from Depot to Eighth Avenue and maintaining the landscaping from South 16th Avenue to Williston Road.
Costs and timing were part of the debate on Thursday. Discussing the eventual cost responsibility that the City Commission would take on by assuming control of the road south to Williston Road, Chase, at one point, said, “I’m almost shaking. I can’t fathom this.”
There was also talk of waiting to see how the transportation sales tax expected to be on next November’s ballot plays out. Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said the city should have ownership of the road in order to see through redevelopment plans in the South Main area.
Commissioners Lauren Poe and Randy Wells noted that some county commissioners had requested that the city take ownership and the move could show cooperation between the two governments ahead of the push for a transportation sales tax.
Chase later responded that the City Commission did not seek to cooperate but instead “destroyed them last year” through public opposition to the roads-only sales tax that a different County Commission majority placed on the ballot. That measure was eventually soundly defeated.