Believed to be about 200 years old, this limestone sidewalk runs along the south side of Broadway Street from Rogersville City School east to Green Street. Jeff Bobo photo.
The state says $229,000 in grant funding must be used for replacing instead of restoring a historic limestone sidewalk in Rogersville that dates back two centuries.
Earlier this month, however, the Rogersville Historical Zoning Commission (RHZC) said that limestone sidewalk on Broadway Street near Rogersville City School isn’t going anywhere.
Believed to be about 200 years old, the limestone sidewalk runs along the south side of Broadway Street from Rogersville City School east to Green Street.
The old sidewalk has been deemed unsafe and a liability. In 2009, the Tennessee Department of Transportation awarded Rogersville a $229,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant to replace that sidewalk, which is uneven, jagged and in some places, broken.
Rogersville City School Coordinated School Health Director Stephanie Eidson helped write the grant application in 2008. She told the RCS BOE on Tuesday that T-DOT had given engineers the approval late last month to advertise for construction bids.
The old stones are outside of the National Historical Registry’s jurisdiction and could be relocated with local approval.
On Feb. 4, however, the RHZC, which must approve physical changes to historically zoned parts of the city, shot down the sidewalk replacement project with a unanimous vote.
“The project is within the local historical district, and there’s always been an understanding that those sidewalks are valued locally,” Eidson told the BOE. “We met with the local historical committee in 2010 discussing possible reuse of the stones or different design options.”
Eidson added, “TDOT did say that the old stones would not satisfy ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements that require the sidewalk to be smooth, firm and slip resistant. ADA compliance is a fundamental requirement of the grant.”
The grant is set to expire in September 2014. If the grant expires, the city of Rogersville will owe TDOT about $8,000 for engineering work already completed.
Eidson said she feels the project can still be salvaged if a compromise is reached to relocate the stones within the city.
RHZC member Steve Nelson told the Times-News on Tuesday that his commission wouldn’t approve relocation of the stones, period.
“There are three or four cities in the whole state of Tennessee that still have those stone sidewalks like that,” Nelson said. “They’re extremely historically significant. The only thing Rogersville has going for it is the history. It’s a historic town, and it’s one of the things that would actually draw people here.”
Nelson added, “Our thought was, move the safe sidewalk over to the other side of the road, and then the Historical Commission will apply for a grant from the state to restore the stone sidewalks.”
Eidson said that option would require new engineering, new right-of-way acquisition, and it’s not known if the grant funds could be used. She told the BOE a meeting will be scheduled with city leaders and the city attorney in hopes of finding a solution to salvage the project.