Pineville council hears update on Streetscape funding

Published 3:42 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

By Jay Compton


The city of Pineville is still waiting for funding to come through to finish the Courthouse Square streetscape project. Current plans include new roads and sidewalks with brick crosswalks, burying overhead utility lines, and widening the road to allow for diagonal parking around the square along with new street lights, signage, benches, trash cans and planters.

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The project was expected to cost about $2.2 million, but after a lengthy delay in getting the funding released, bids came in at $3.6 million. The city has applied for an additional $1 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and is also exploring state funding or ways to reduce the project’s cost. Mayor Scott Madon provided an update on the city’s options at Monday’s city council meeting.

“We’ve been assured that we will be recommended to get that (ARC) grant, but the governor still has to sign off on it,” Madon said. “We’ve also applied for a line item in the state budget for $1.1 million in case that grant doesn’t come through.”

He has also met with the project’s architect and contractors to identify parts of the project that could be cut out to save money if the additional funding doesn’t come through.

“We’re kind of in a sit-and-wait mode right now. I know we’ve been doing that for a long time, but the blacktop plant doesn’t open back up until April 15, so there’s nothing we could do anyway,” Madon said. “We are looking at possibly doing some temporary repairs on the roads if this money continues to be held up. The roads are bad right now; we acknowledge that, and we’re not hiding from it.”

He said the city had all its bases covered and could move forward whether it got more funding or not.

“If we do get our money, we’re going to continue on as planned. If we get part of it, we’ve got four different options to adjust things. The project will be built, and we’ve talked to both contractors about the possibility of working together to speed things up,” Madon said. “We just ask everybody to continue to be patient and understanding. We’re doing everything we can right now to get our funds to finish it up.”

The city has also applied for grants involving various other projects through House Bill 9, which distributes USDA money from the state to serve as matching funds for local projects that receive federal funding. These include $20 million for expanding the sewer treatment plant, $60,000 in matching funds for the purchase of two police cruisers and $125,000 in matching funds to add a splash pad and redo the minipark at the end of Walnut Street.

“We’ve applied for a Land Water Conservation Fund grant for the park. We want to put in a splash pad and put in pickleball courts,” Madon said. “It’s a $250,000 project and the grant is a 50-50 match so if it gets funded we’ve also applied for this House Bill 9 money so the city wouldn’t be out any money.”

The mayor also explained that the original intent of the HB 9 funds were to help distressed counties that were affected by downturn in the coal industry, and Bell County was one of those specified.

“A lot of other counties started to complain about not being included. Knox County, Whitley County and others weren’t in it and we know there was a lot of mining in those areas,” he said. “Where there were just 20 counties and a whole lot of money — billions of dollars. Now they’ve added 92 counties. That makes that big pot a lot smaller. But Bell County is a priority county as one of the top four that relied on coal.”

Grace Health has purchased all of the property they need and got all of the necessary easements in place to build their new medical center on Tennessee Avenue. Madon said, like the city, they are waiting for USDA funds to be released so construction can start on the $1.6 million project.

The council also approved the appointment of Ron Alcorn, Brian O’Brien, Mike Crockett, Kenzo Vanhoesebroeck and Patricia Bingham to the Pineville Broadband Committee.

Madon said the committee had to be put in place for the city to be eligible for broadband funds that could  be coming available.

“We’ll start exploring the opportunities that we have to get fiber and broadband, especially in Pineville but also in the surrounding areas,” he said. “I’m even looking at maybe doing something like Barbourville does. They own their own cable company and we’re exploring that to see if it’s something we can do through our utility district.”