JASPER, Tenn. — A plan to upgrade and construct three lengthy sections of sidewalk in the downtown Jasper area has been delayed while a historical preservation survey is completed.
Mayor Paul Evans said the city has to complete the survey because one of the buildings along one of the existing sidewalk routes is on the National Register of Historic Places.
He said he hears questions from citizens about what's happening with the project every day.
"Red tape," Evans said. "Plain and simple."
The owner of every building that's more than 40 years old along the route has to fill out a questionnaire and send it back to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, officials said.
Evans said the historical study would delay the project at least three months.
"They don't tell you all of this timeline stuff at the beginning," he said. "We can't do anything else until we receive a notice to proceed."
That can't happen until the affected residents have provided all the required documentation.
"People have been wondering if we're still getting it," Evans said. "They think we've got the money. We don't have any money because we won't get it until that's finished."
Gary Cosby, an engineer with CTI Engineers in Chattanooga, said he can't even work on the design until approval is granted by the state.
The plan will enhance significantly the sidewalks along the west side of Betsy Pack Drive from Second Avenue to Seventh Street and then continue along Seventh to the Jasper Town Hall Annex.
An additional sidewalk will be built to connect Jasper Park with Jasper Elementary School.
The city was awarded a $100,000 Transportation Alternatives Grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation, which includes 80 percent funding for the project with a 20 percent cash match from the city.
Officials said the grant requires an environmental assessment -- already completed -- as well as the historical preservation study.
Also, the sidewalks must be completed over a span of five years to meet the grant requirements.
"I can see why it's a five-year grant now," Evans said. "We do have the grant. We don't have the money, and that's where we stand. We're in the process, and we're just following the rules."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryan firstname.lastname@example.org.