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T-DOT offers grant compromise to save Rogersville's historic limestone sidewalk

August 25th, 2013 4:40 pm by Jeff Bobo

T-DOT offers grant compromise to save Rogersville's historic limestone sidewalk

Accepting a $229,000 T-DOT "Safe Route to Schools" sidewalk grant would require removing of a historic limestone sidewalk on Broadway Street, which local officials don't want to do. (photo by Jeff Bobo)

ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville can still save a $229,000 grant to build a “Safe Route to Schools” sidewalk near Rogersville City School, although it will require small property easements from adjacent property owners. 

In 2009, the Tennessee Department of Transportation awarded Rogersville a $229,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant to replace a historic limestone sidewalk on Broadway Street about 70 feet in length just east of RCS. The sidewalk is uneven, jagged and, in some places, broken.

City and school officials had asked the state to allow the limestone to remain part of the project. 

But because the funds are part of a federal project, the new sidewalk must be constructed under certain guidelines. For example it must meet all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements, and it must have a smooth concrete surface that is at least 5 feet wide.

Earlier this month Rogersville Mayor Jim Sells and some other local officials went to Nashville seeking a compromise with T-DOT, which administers the grant.

The main issue with local officials is that they don’t want to give up the existing limestone rocks, which were quarried locally and placed there in the mid to late 1800s.

City attorney Bill Phillips, who also met with T-DOT, told the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its Aug. 13 meeting that the Tennessee Historical Commission is also opposed to removal of the limestone.

“Not only is the Tennessee Historical Commission opposed to removing the limestone, but the Rogersville Historical Commission opposes that option as well,” Phillips said. “It’s my understanding most of the residents up there do not want the limestone sidewalk removed.”

The compromise offered by T-DOT was to build the new sidewalk up to federal specs and then place the limestone slabs next to them, creating a double sidewalk. 

“The only caveat to that is we’re not buying any right-of-way, and don’t want to buy any right-of-way to put those limestone slabs up there,” Phillips added. “The suggestion was that we talk to the neighbors this affects, ask which of them would like to retain their limestone sidewalk, and if they would, ask them to donate three or four feet — enough to put those slabs down on their property — and just move them over next to the newly constructed sidewalk. It will still remain their property. We’ll just have an easement.”

Phillips added, “The alternative is we don’t do anything and we lose the grant.”

The BMA agreed to seek a recommendation from the Rogersville Historical Committee. If the committee approves this compromise, city leaders will then contact the affected property owners seeking an easement. 

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.

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