Cedartown, Ga. – January 14, 2015: Just three weeks into the New Year and the City of Cedartown has already crossed off one item on their 2016 capital improvement to-do list.
Last week, the City completed a rebuild of the aeration blower at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. An $11,000 expense, it’s certainly not the most glamorous project of the year, but its operation is critical to proper wastewater management and treatment. An aeration blower, as the name implies, creates air flow – an important factor in treating the 2 million gallons of wastewater that is taken in by the facility. Rebuilding the blower ensures that oxygen levels are kept at a desirable level, preventing bacteria and undesirable organism growth. “Projects like this usually don’t get a lot of attention,” said City Manager Bill Fann. “Most folks really don’t stop and think about the City’s sewer and wastewater system, but it is an essential service that we provide. Making sure we have the proper equipment and that it’s running as it should is crucial.”
Perhaps the most visible project the City plans to complete this year is the construction of the new downtown event center. The event center, which will bear the names of both Jim and Jean Lankford, will be located adjacent to Georgia’s largest paved trail system — The Silver Comet — and across from the Cedartown Depot. The land where the building will be located was donated by the Lankford family.
An ambitious project, the City’s goal is to bring a top-of-the-line event center to downtown Cedartown. The only one of its kind in Polk County, the 4,200 square-foot facility will play host to a large variety of community gatherings, annual events and private functions.
Plans call for a spacious meeting area, large industrial kitchen, an open-air patio, audio/visual technology set up capability, a covered outside performance pavilion and exterior restrooms for Silver Comet riders. The design flows seamlessly with the turn of the century architecture of downtown Cedartown, and pulls inspiration from the former Brewster Mercantile Company, a structural staple of that area for decades. Several grants have been applied for in order to keep local expense low. Groundbreaking on the project is expected in the spring.
The recently finalized approval of a new 62-unit affordable housing complex is another major project that the City will be working on in 2016.
As a participant of the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) program, the City of Cedartown set a goal of providing quality, affordable housing to their citizens. As a result of this goal, The Vinings at Oxford has received housing tax credits to build the complex that will be located off the Cedartown bypass across from Cedartown Middle School.
The complex will consist of 62 townhomes — nine one-bedroom units, 32 two-bedroom units and 21 three-bedroom units. Additionally, there will be units designed for mobility and sensory impaired individuals. The complex will have tenant amenities including a covered picnic area with barbecue grills, outdoor playground and energy efficient appliances. The development’s design will incorporate a number of energy efficient features using EarthCraft guidance with the goal of significantly improving the tenants’ utility expenses for the long term.
“This is another great project that will benefit all of Cedartown,” Fann said. “Our hope with this complex ties back to our goals that we set as part of the GICH program. We want those folks that are living in sub-standard housing rented out by landlords to be able to move out of those places and have a better quality of life. Once these people realize they can live in much better housing for about the same amount of money, we’re hoping that it will force the hand of irresponsible landlords, making them clean up and manage their property as they should be doing.”
The Vinings will begin construction in 2016 and lease-up will begin by 2017. The construction and management of The Vinings at Oxford will be performed by Fyffe Construction Company, Inc. and Vantage Management, LLC.
Another high profile project – and one that has been in the works since 2014 – is taking place at Cedartown’s most well-known landmark, the Big Spring. Cedartown’s Big Spring is the South’s second largest limestone spring and provides nearly four million gallons of water to the City’s residents every day. The area surrounding the spring is classified as a Trail of Tears National Historic Site.
A crumbling retaining wall is visible to anyone that visits the park today. After decades of existence, nature has taken its toll on the rock and concrete channel that guides the spring’s overflow under the iconic rock footbridge and out into the Cedar Creek. Repairing the wall has not been as simple, or as easy as one might think. “The big thing that we’ve been waiting on regarding this project was the clearance from the Army Corp of Engineers to actually get in there and repair the wall. That approval has taken a year to receive. Now that we have it, we can move forward with the other clearances needed to bring this project to completion,” Fann said.
The City has applied for a recreational trail program grant through the Georgia DNR. If received, the grant would be used to help fund the Big Spring Park Project and create a nature trail from the Big Spring to the Goodyear Park through the Trail of Tears encampment area. The City should know whether or not they receive the grant by March or April, Fann said. Other planned improvements to the area include picnic pavilions, an observation deck, public restrooms, new Trail of Tears signage and landscaping beautification.
Just to the east of Big Spring lies another task the City hopes to tackle in the coming year. Over the decades, the exterior of the City’s historic waterworks building has been painted, leaving the all-brick structure peeling and its masonry work compromised. The City aims to change that in 2016. “You’ve got years and years of paint on that building. Painting brick is probably the worst thing you can do to it. It damages the brick’s mortar, pulls out all the moisture and causes it to crack and dry up,” Fann explained. “We want to get rid of all that paint and bring it back to its original look.” Fann said depending on the availability of funds, interior renovation work might also be done.
Moving from water to sewer brings the next project of 2016 into play. The $500,000 Community Development Block Grant that the City received last fall will be put into use this spring and invested in the replacement of 6,000 linear feet of sewer line, Fann said. The replacement will take place in an area with some of the oldest, most fragile infrastructure in the city, primarily in a residential area south of Goodyear Park near Cedar Creek according to Fann.
This project will also include replacement or rehabilitation of manholes and reduction of storm water inflow/infiltration into the sewer system. Many of the lines — made of either cast iron or clay — have deteriorated and broken, which leads to frequent blockages and overflows. In addition, Fann said that groundwater seeps into the pipes, which increases the volume and cost of sewage treatment. “We feel very fortunate to have received this funding last year in light of the very competitive nature of these grants” said Fann. “As I stated before, properly functioning sewer and wastewater infrastructure is crucial for a municipality.”
Two other items on tap for 2016 are recreation related. According to Fann, replacement of the heaters at the Nathan Dean Gym at Bert Wood Youth and Athletic Complex will take place this year. Another project at the same park is dependent on grant money. “We submitted a grant for new playground equipment at Bert Wood, and we’re hoping we get selected for that,” he said. Additionally, preliminary work is being done on the creation of a soccer facility in Cedartown, Fann said, and the City is currently pursuing funding opportunities for that project.
One Door Polk continues to progress as more tenants are slated to complete their renovations and move in over the coming months. “Primary Healthcare Center, which has been operating in the One Door Polk facility since 2014, will soon be expanding and offering dental services. Georgia Northwestern Technical College Adult Education is operating out of the facility now as well as components of Highland Rivers Health. Polk Family Connection is set up and operating as well. The Department of Juvenile Justice is set to move in and we will be bringing in Right From the Start Medicaid soon,” Fann said. “And we have other agencies on the waiting list as well.”
A renovation project creating additional office space at the Cedartown Police Department is also planned this year, as is a priority-based replacement of departmental vehicles. “Emergencies happen, and just like with a personal or family budget, when those emergencies happen, you sometimes have to put less critical things aside until you can reassess. Some of these projects, the ones that we have identified less urgent as others, might have to be postponed until later on down the road if we have an emergency come up,” Fann said. “We have a great bunch of commissioners, competent and capable department heads and the best employees around. Our 2016 is going to be very exciting.”