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Mayor Paul Evans

JASPER, Tenn. - City administrators have decided to apply for a federal grant so they can improve and extend some existing sidewalks throughout the downtown area.

If approved, the plan drastically would upgrade the sidewalks along the west side of Betsy Pack Drive from Second Avenue to Seventh Street and then continuing along Seventh Street to the Jasper Town Hall Annex, officials said.

Another sidewalk would be built to connect Jasper Park with Jasper Elementary School, officials said.

On Tuesday, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Alderman voted unanimously to apply for the Transportation Alternatives Grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Chad Reese, a regional planner with the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said some of the existing sidewalk has been "broken up" by tree roots, and the town does not have adequate curb ramps along the route.

The project would cost an estimated $100,000, he said, and it would include installing almost 20 curb ramps to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

"It's just a good area to do this because there are areas that need to be replaced," he said. "We're hoping that this will connect the Jasper Public Library to the school system, the Marion County Health Department, and the Town Hall Annex."

The new 5-foot-wide sidewalk would create a "safe route to schools," Mayor Paul Evans said.

He said the sidewalk from the park to the elementary school was in the original plans for the park's walking track, but it was taken out because of the hefty expense.

"Now is a good time to put it back in," he said.

Reese said the grant will be competitive, so there is no guarantee Jasper will get it.

The grant includes 80 percent funding for the proposed project with a 20 percent "hard cash match" from the city, he said.

If the city gets the grant and the cost is $100,000, Evans said, the entire project can be completed with Jasper paying $20,000 for it.