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22 February 2008
$100,000 Sidewalk Project Proposed

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Gamecock softball players Kayla Collins, Allie Barker, Kylie Chandler, Chrissy O’Neal and Jackie Jarman run on the existing sidewalk. Photo: Anita Kilgore

A sidewalk already stretches down Mountain Street from Pelham Road to the Chief Ladiga Trail. The only place along the stretch where no concrete flanks the road is the lot where the Cock Pit and Struts have their home.

The existing sidewalk, however, is narrow and in places where large trees stood, it is cracked and buckled.

When the Jacksonville Finance Committee met on Feb. 14, the widening and resurfacing of that sidewalk topped their list of potential projects that could benefit both the city of Jacksonville and Jacksonville State University.

“I know that you want to clean that area up, on West Mountain,” said Mayor Johnny Smith as he addressed JSU president William Meehan, “and we want that trail connected to downtown some way.”

In a 2-1 vote, the committee proposed donating $100,000 to JSU for the sidewalk improvements. The only holdout was Councilman George Areno, who would have gladly voted to give $75,000, but believed $100,000 was too much for the project.

“I’m just raising the question of cost. I could easily go $75,000 instead of $100,000. That would be my recommendation,” said Areno.

The proposed improvements would make the sidewalks six-feet wide, allowing for both bicycle and pedestrian traffic to travel from the trail to Pelham Road. Smith feels this would allow the trail to tie in to the center of town.

“I could see this to be a connector that we could have pretty quickly where students even at The Grove could ride the trail down to Mountain, up Mountain to 21 and to the Square,” said Smith. “Or citizens who are just riding the trail could ride up to Grub Mart, buy a Coca-Cola or get an ice cream.”

In anticipation of the project, Smith has already asked Street Department Supervisor Stanley Carr to look into the rights of way along the street. Of course, much of the area already belongs to JSU.

“Stanley’s looked at that down there a little bit. He thinks it’s do-able. There might be a few spots where we’d have a little issue, but I think we have enough right-of-way that we would be OK. The problem is the little creek. There is a little issue there. We may have to narrow it down to a regular-sized sidewalk right there,” said Smith. “The nice part of it is a large portion of it is JSU property.”

A few of the council members voiced requests that trees also be planted along the street, replacing many cut down over the past year by contractors working for Alabama Power Company.

“I’d want it landscaped. I wouldn’t just want a sidewalk down through there. I’d want it landscaped with low-growing trees and what have you that would add to the beauty of it,” said Councilman Truman Norred.

If the proposal passes the council, the city would give JSU $20,000 each year for five years beginning in October of this year.

Throughout prior discussions about the donation to the university, Smith has been opposed to contributing anything. At the meeting on Feb. 14, however, he admitted to a recent change of heart.

“All of you on this council know I’ve been pretty reluctant to come around to this $100,000. It’s taken a lot of convincing,” said Smith. “Then I closed my eyes and thought about what Jacksonville would be if it didn’t have JSU here.”

Other projects considered by the committee were a tennis complex, a graywater recycling system, a pedestrian overpass on Pelham Road and a sidewalk down Alabama 204.

If approved, the city’s donation would become part of JSU’s current capital campaign, which ends in December. The university has raised $19.2 million to date.

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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