Streetscape grant, Streetscape committee and Streetscape project are terms that have been printed in the Morgan Messenger on numerous occasions. Some readers have wondered what the word Streetscape means and how the Streetscape project will affect the community?
"Streetscape is kind of a misnomer because the rules for the grant prohibit using the grant money to fix or pave streets," said Town Recorder and Chair of the Streetscape Committee Garnet Marsh.
"The overall objective is to improve the walk-ability, safety and look of the downtown area. This includes sidewalks, benches, lighting, pedestrian walkways, signs, landscaping and parking," committee member Sally Marshall said.
The Town of Bath Streetscape Committee works in conjunction with the town's Planning and Grant committees. Members of the Streetscape committee include; Beth Curtin, Andrew Gosline, Betty Lou Harmison, Bob Knight, Larry Lower, Rebecca MacCleod, Bob Marggraf, Garnet Marsh, Sally Marshall and Diane Peterson.
Government red tape
Streetscape grant funding comes from a federal government program called Transportation Enhancement Activities. The program is
administered by the Federal Highway Administration which is under the Department of Transportation. Funding is provided to each state. The West Virginia Division of Highways administers the Transportation Enhancement Activities funds for the state. Grants are applied for and awarded to municipalities by the Division of Highways.
The town applied for, and was awarded a $200,000 grant in November 2004.
As planning proceeded, committee member Bob Knight of the West Virginia University Extension Office was instrumental in bringing the Community Design Team from the University of West Virginia to town in November 2006. The design team looked over the downtown area and generated many ideas for the Streetscape project.
A second grant for $500,000, that requires the town to provide 20% of the total in matching funds, was applied for in January 2007.
In February 2007, Mayor Susan Webster asked Robert Marggraf, President of Carl M. Freeman Companies, owner and developer at Coolfont, to become a project sponsor. Marggraf agreed to support the Streetscape project with consulting, community design and engineering expertise. This work will count toward the $100,000 matching funds the town needs to provide as part of the $500,000 grant.
But the committee learned at the August 28 meeting that the grant request was turned down for this year. Committee members felt that one of the reasons was because the town had yet to spend any of the original $200,000.
One reason the Streetscape Committee has not spent any of the original grant money is because the West Virginia Division of Highways has not yet given its approval to start the project and has not released any funding. This delay in part was caused by the committee changing plans due to the courthouse fire.
Marsh announced at the August 21 Bath Town Council meeting that she had been informed by Harold Simmons, administrator of the grant for the Division of Highways, that a letter to proceed with the project was in the mail.
The committee will reapply again this year for the $500,000 grant, hoping to receive it next year.
When the courthouse burned last August, the Streetscape Committee had to amend their plans for the original $200,000 grant. The committee had planned to start work around the square at Fairfax and Washington streets.
Because of the construction that will take place around the courthouse area, the committee decided instead to start on the three block portion of Wilkes Street between Fairfax Street and Route 9 west. Then, if enough money is available, work would continue on the two blocks of Congress and Independence Streets between Wilkes and Washington streets.
Somewhat complicating the project will be the repaving planned for that part of Wilkes Street by the Division of Highways. Work was scheduled to start in July, but was delayed, and is supposed to start this fall.
Marshall said parking will become a big problem when construction on the new courthouse starts and the courthouse lot will no longer be available for parking.
Marshall, who did the grant application paperwork for the Streetscape Committee, said the committee was in the process of submitting an application for a new grant from the Governor's Community Partnership program to do a parking study. The study will conduct an inventory of current parking spaces in town and look at short term and long term parking solutions.
The Streetscape Committee has not been idle while waiting for the go-ahead from the Division of Highways. The committee has developed an RFP (Request for Proposal) to be sent out to prospective consultants for the initial design work.
Legal notices for local newspapers and a budget for the design, specifications and construction drawings is being drafted. The committee hopes to select a consultant for the design work in October and have a completed design in January 2008.