A motion to apply for a community transportation-planning grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation failed to receive support during a special Jan. 17 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting in Decherd.
The board also discussed potentially participating in the Tennessee Housing Development Agency HOME program that promotes the production, preservation and rehabilitation of affordable single-family housing for low-income households.
The board agreed it needed further information and opted to consider the issue at a later date.
Mayor Michael Gillespie said the TDOT grant would be used to establish a bicycle and pedestrian lane that would include North Middle School, Main Street, and Decherd City Park near the railroad tracks.
He said that students could use it to ride their bicycles to North Middle and Decherd Elementary schools, and the public could use it for their walking and pedestrian needs.
With a Jan. 24 deadline, Gillespie said the aldermen would need to move forward on approval so that a professional could be hired to develop the plan to support a grant of up to $125,000 from TDOT.
“There is nothing for pedestrians to walk on in these areas,” Gillespie said.
He said he had been assured by TDOT that the city would be 99 percent likely of getting another grant to finish the project whenever the plan is complete.
Alderman Tammy Holt moved to approve the application, saying she is “highly in favor of improving infrastructure in Decherd.”
However, Gillespie asked twice for a second to her motion, but no one spoke up in favor of it, so the proposal died due to a lack of support.
Holt said she also wondered if the TDOT grant would perhaps lead to future federal grants as well.
Gillespie said he felt that it could happen for the federal Highway 41A running through Decherd.
Alderman Jimmy Wayne Sanders and Vice Mayor Richard Gulley stated they had contacted Decherd Elementary and North Middle schools and were told no students ride bicycles to those schools.
Gulley further said he often witnessed “folks walking all the time along Cumberland Street where there is no shoulder,” but Gillespie said it was not a state route.
Following the meeting, Gillespie expressed his disenchantment in not getting the TDOT proposal seconded, and City Administrator Rex Clark said that it was part of the mayor’s five-year plan, and several infrastructure projects are in progress.
“I am very disappointed in the board’s decision not to apply for the bicycle/pedestrian lane planning grant,” Gillespie said. “It is part of the Decherd five-year plan that was approved by the Decherd Planning Commission of which Alderman Pam Arnold is a member, and she voted to approve it along with the other six members of the commission.
“Also on the day of the vote, fellow Planning Commissioner Mary Nell Hess’ husband, Bill, was hit by a car while riding his bike on Decherd Boulevard. Again, I am very disappointed.”
Decherd resident Danita Slatton explained her outlook.
“We have a board living in the past,” she said. “They’re not willing to look at growing Decherd and looking into the future.
“We have voted them in to do a job for the citizens, but they are not listening to us. They do not want to listen to us, they have their own agenda, and we’re going to end up dying as a little city, and Winchester’s going to take over. The people need to start coming to the meetings and voicing their opinions, or we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Gillespie said he agrees with Slatton’s assessment.
After the motion died, Gillespie moved on to the next item on the agenda concerning participating in the HOME Program. HOME is a shorted version of HOME Investment Partnerships.
It offers assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, handled at the state level by the THDA.
Gillespie asked who would benefit from the program being in Decherd and what other towns and cities in Franklin County had used it. He also voiced an opinion that the process would be too complex in the short amount of time to meet a March 5 deadline.
Gulley suggested that the city should start trying to find someone to work on the process who was knowledgeable, and it might still be worth it for next year.
Sanders said he felt it would be more complicated than the last time the city had considered participating in the HOME Program when only four people qualified.
“We may have to hire someone full-time to conduct the study,” he said.
After further discussion, it was agreed that the board would table the issue and reconsider it at a later meeting.
The board meets the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at City Hall.