By MIKE WILLIAMS
Help could be on the way for the Town of Pulaski’s aging water lines, town council learned Tuesday.
Council also heard of improvements to the town’s firing range, new cost figures for a fire engine and an update on the West Main Street water project and Downtown traffic.
At Tuesday’s meeting of Town Council, it was learned there is a possibility that federal dollars could be acquired to pay for replacement of some of the town’s nearly 100-year-old water lines.
Town Manager Darlene Burcham told council the town had received correspondence last week from Ninth District Rep. Morgan Griffith’s office that indicated the possibility of communities applying to the House Appropriations Committee for some special community funding. Burcham said there is a short timeline on the application, which is due in Washington by March 20.
“We are scrambling to put together what we hope is a very effective application to seek money for replacement of some of our major water lines. I think everybody’s familiar with the fact that our water system is 100 plus years old, and we have a number of areas that are sorely in need of a total replacement and that repair is not the practical solution,” Burcham told council.
Burcham added the representative from Rep. Griffith’s office indicated that the more letters of support for the application the town can get from the community, the more attractive the town’s application would be.
“Right now, we’re still working on what the amount of funding would be that we’re going to ask for. Think all of you are well aware of the condition of our water system, and all of the times citizens are complaining ‘can’t we spend more money on replacing waterlines.’ This is an opportunity to do that on some other taxpayers’ money,” she said.
Burcham said the town would be contacting groups and individuals in hopes they will write letters of support for the town’s application.
Burcham said no dollar figure for the amount of money that might be received has been given, but she said Griffith’s representative feels the age of the town’s water system and evidence that repairs are needed should make the town’s application a good candidate for approval.
He advised Burcham that a resolution from council to apply for the federal funding would aid the town’s application.
Council unanimously approved such a resolution to apply for the funding.
Burcham updated council on the West Main Street water line project and ever-changing traffic patterns downtown.
She reported that every day, more and more people are adhering to the stop signs on Third Street and Washington Avenue.
“The first couple of days, people were obviously running them, but I think people are getting the hang of it and are able to actually move through the intersection faster than when there were traffic lights because you had to wait for the lights to change, and I’ve actually had that feedback from some folks,” Burcham said.
“We will be, at some point in the near future, opening up the opposite lane – traveling from west to east on Third Street. But in order to do that, we will need to have someone come in and do striping of the street, which we will carry all the way through in front of the County Administration Building so that we have a uniform pattern there. We will announce probably a week to two weeks in advance when that move is made.
“But we think that the way the traffic is flowing now, it’s going very, very well,” Burcham said.
On the water line project, she reported, “All of the lateral water lines that we talked about – three on each side – in order to get sprinkler capacity to both sides of the street have been installed. So, they are now available for connections if and when a business wants to add that.”
She said work crews are in the process of installing the individual connections to the new water main to the actual individual properties. During that process, she said, property owners are being asked if they wanted additional water meters added for future development.
“This would be the time to do it so you wouldn’t have to tear up the street or the sidewalks further. We have gotten about four additional meters requested and they’re being put in.”
She noted that plans are in for projects at 67, 69 and 73 West Main Street. The plans call for putting in eight apartments and three retail spaces.
Burcham has passed on information on the plans to Mike Haskins, the town’s new economic development person who she said is very eager for new businesses to come to the downtown.
“I would say we’re still on schedule” on the water line project, Burcham said.
“We do plan to have at your next meeting the designs for the streetscape for you all to see,” Burcham told council.
Burcham reminded council that back in January it had given her permission to place an order for a new fire engine, which would take over two years to be delivered.
The estimate for the new engine at that time was $900,000. She told council Tuesday the price has gone up to $998,000.
Burcham said she would place the order Wednesday before the price goes up anymore.
“You’ll recall that we still have a couple of years to work out the financing, for grants and other kinds of options, but we do need to go ahead and order that as soon as possible,” she said.
Council heard of improvements at the police department’s firing range on Draper’s Mountain.
Police Chief Jill Neice outlined improvements that have been made and others that are planned, such as a new metal targeting system to replace the old wooden one.
Neice said a variety of area law enforcement agencies make use of the range, along with a variety of federal agencies.
In response to a question from Councilman Brooks Dawson, Neice said there had been some interest in the public somehow making use of the range as well.
Burcham said that might be something the town could take a look at once improvements are completed.
Burcham reported the town has filled the building official vacancy. Tim Hale is in that position part time this month, but will go full time in April.
In the meantime, Tim Nester – a retired building official from Radford – is helping to get Hale acclimated, Burcham said.
She also touched on rumors of her departure from the town that have been mentioned on Facebook.
“I do want to just mention that contrary to what people post on Facebook about me or about the town, a lot of it’s not true. And I’m still here today and I plan to continue to be here at least until my contract ends,” Burcham said.