The Ringgold City Council spent 38 seconds approving a request by City Manager Dan Wright to put the estimated $335,000 courthouse streetscape project out for bid April 22.
There was no need for discussion. The project is part of the "master plan," a document Councilman Randall Franks and his colleagues know well.
"It's an important part of the visioning plan, and it's great to see it move forward," said Franks, now in his 19th year on the council.
The plan has many names: master plan; visioning plan; "the" plan; the Carl Vinson study; but officially it's called the Renaissance Strategic Vision & Plan, RSVP for short. The 103-page report offers a "30-year look into the future of the community." The comprehensive strategic document, fitting for cities far larger than Ringgold, includes a detailed history of the city.
"We had talked about the need for a plan for a long time before it finally came together," said Franks, a musician and actor who spent five seasons in the early 1990s as one of Carroll O'Connor's deputies in the popular "In the Heat of the Night" TV show.
With the help of the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, the city contracted with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia for the $50,000 study. Other partners included Thrive 2055, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation.
In a town with 4,378 citizens, according to the study, more than 1,200 people provided input on the plan, which was adopted in early 2018.
The plan outlines four goals for Ringgold over the next 30 years:
1. Preserve and build on Ringgold's beloved small-town character and historical heritage while accommodating new growth. The plan estimates the city will grow by only a little more than 1,000 people over the next three decades.
2. Ensure a welcoming and accessible downtown experience that is easy to enjoy by foot, golf cart or car.
3. Create a small-town destination by encouraging a variety of authentic, locally owned retail and dining options.
4. Build on the attraction of Ringgold's beloved natural environment and wealth of history.
"We're Mayberry, remember?" Franks said. "We're the place everyone wants to live."
The vision of the plan is to drive investment, both public and private, and increase business opportunities by expanding the downtown area to capitalize on the established historic district that encompasses the two blocks nearest to the Ringgold Depot. The expansion will include streetscaping, street improvements and the development of major intersections extending past the county courthouse, over to Lafayette Street and up Legion Street to the Ringgold Recreation Center. There, it will connect to the city's walking paths along South Chickamauga Creek and Ringgold's outdoor recreation activities.
The large scope of the plan is being tackled in small projects fitting a small town budget.
The Catoosa County Courthouse streetscape is the latest of many smaller projects, with more being targeted for 2019 and 2020. The new project will involve improving four intersections around the courthouse and creating a better traffic flow by turning Jail and Maple streets, which parallel the courthouse and annex, into one-way streets traveling in opposite directions.
"We're doing it one project at a time when we have funds after we take care of the basic services of the city," Franks said of the overall plan. "This was such a collaborative effort. Now, we have the right people making decisions who are committed and pushing forward to bring people to our community, put feet in our businesses and spend money in our restaurants."
He points to the opening of Southern Charm clothing boutique last week at a key intersection downtown, adding, "What is happening downtown encourages other businesses to come downtown."
To review the entire RSVP plan, visit issuu.com/rsvpstudio/docs/ringgold_digital.
Email Davis Lundy at firstname.lastname@example.org.