City of Maryville shifts focus to infrastructure
Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
The City of Maryville is shifting focus from building projects to addressing maintenance and infrastructure needs neglected during the economic downturn, according to officials.
Maryville City Manager Greg McClain told audience members at a Chamber of Commerce briefing on Friday that the city’s focus on new building projects, such as Coutler Grove Intermediate School, during the past decade is over.
“All those are worthy causes and good projects, but now it’s really time to focus on the infrastructure,” he said. “Our effort for the next five years is going to be to replace the needed operational capital — equipment and vehicles — as well as replacing infrastructure.”
Although the city has managed to weather the economic downturn without having to raise taxes, budget cuts have taken a toll. It trimmed 11 percent of its workforce through attrition and early retirements.
“At the same time we never cut any services, which means that the folks who stayed with us had to work that much harder,” McClain said. “We didn’t raise any taxes. We’re very proud of that.”
Cutting back on expenditures also meant putting off maintenance, which has to be addressed, McClain said. “We’ve got a tremendous backlog.”
Needed capital projects continue to mount, and the city is addressing them as best it can. “We continue to work on that list,” McClain said. “We had a failure of College Street bridge just out of the blue. One of our employees saw it and caught it. They are repairing it.”
At the current top of the list is an effort to improve transportation access to the Foothills Plaza and Foothills Mall areas in advance of construction of a planned Kroger Marketplace on a 12-acre site formerly occupied in part by the Carmike Foothills Cinemas.
“That really is the biggest thing for us because of Kroger coming,” said city spokeswoman Pam Arnett.
The city is planning to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Mall Road and U.S. Highway 129, but there are also bigger plans for the Tennessee Department of Transportation to make improvements to the intersections at U.S. 411 South and Foothills Mall Drive as well as Lamar Alexander Parkway and U.S. Highway 129.
“We approached TDOT about allowing us to put a signal at Mall Road,” McClain said. “... They’ve agreed to fix the whole corridor.”
Plans call for motorists to be able to access both northbound and southbound U.S. 129 from Mall Road. “It’s always been an issue that you can get into the mall (from U.S. 129), but you can’t go back to Knoxville,” McClain said.
Although final costs have not been established, it is projected that the city will spend an estimated $500,000 on the projects with TDOT funding an estimated $4 million in road improvements.
The Maryville Kroger Marketplace will bring an investment of about $22 million into the local economy. “We’re excited to see Kroger invest that kind of money,” McClain said.