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Madison Street project prompts planning changes

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Franklin has made changes for planning construction projects and keeping residents informed after a major downtown construction project started this year.

This summer, the city started work on its $3.3 million North Main Street project, which includes sewer and street upgrades on Madison and Main streets.

After the project began, city officials realized half of Madison Street was being repaired but not the other. And residents raised concerns about not knowing what the project included, such as cutting down trees and closing roads and sidewalks.

Now, the city is making changes so those problems don’t happen with future projects, including the second phase of the Main Street project scheduled to begin in 2014.

City managers plan to have more meetings and discussions about projects so the city isn’t left with a half-done project, and city officials plan to keep residents more informed before and during projects about what work will take place and how long it will take.

At a glance

What: North Main Street project

Cost: $3.3 million

Start: Summer 2012

End: Fall 2013

Improvements: The city is upgrading the sewer system below Madison and Main streets as well as putting in new curbs, lights and sidewalks on both streets.

Closed: Sections of Main Street will be closed as the city replaces the sewer system below the street block by block north to Graham Street.

Mayor Joe McGuinness said the problem with Madison Street happened because the designs for the project were done before he took office, and the members of his administration and the previous administration did not communicate enough before construction began.

When construction began, city officials discovered one side of Madison Street would be upgraded with new sewer lines, street, curbs and sidewalks in the project, but not the other. They then had to begin a second project so that both sides of the street would be finished.

Construction on the south side of Madison Street began last month and should be finished by Monday, Franklin street commissioner Ron Collins said.

To prevent future issues and problems with projects, city officials from the planning, street and engineering departments will meet every two weeks to discuss changes and problems that arise during construction, such as using different materials because one will be less expensive and easier to replace, so all department managers know what is going on, Collins said.

“I think we need to have that kind of oversight of people coming to the table and talking about what they’re seeing so what did happen on (Madison Street) won’t happen in the future,” Collins said.

City officials are not meeting biweekly as they finish the first phase of the Main Street project, but Collins said he visits the construction site every day to make sure workers do not run into any problems. The meetings will take place for the second part of the North Main Street project, Collins said.

For that project, the city plans to replace the sewer system and upgrade the road on Main Street from Graham Street to U.S. 31, Collins said.

More residents live along that section of Main Street than the section currently under construction, and city officials plan to have additional public hearings to keep residents informed, McGuinness said.

Residents raised concerns about construction on Main Street when the city cut down 29 trees before they could meet with city officials. The city had a public hearing in April, but that was after the trees already were cut down.

Residents also told city officials they did not know when the downtown streets would be closed or for how long, Collins said.

For future projects, the city wants to have additional public meetings and continue to meet with residents individually to listen to their concerns, McGuinness said.

The city had a public hearing a few years ago on the second project, McGuinness said. But officials want to have more meetings to keep residents updated and inform residents who have moved to the area since the last meeting about the construction.

“So if folks have concerns about a driveway or a curb or a fire hydrant, we can address it at that time, so we’re not six months into a project thinking there’s a problem,” McGuinness said.

The city will put doorknob hangers with information about the meetings on the residents’ doors, McGuinness said. They also will use doorknob hangers to give residents updates about construction, such as what roads will be closed and when, and whom to call if they have questions.

Collins said he and other construction officials are willing to meet with residents at any time to make sure they understand what the city is doing, why the construction is being done and how long it will take.

“It’ll be a better looking street, with better amenities on the street. It’ll be worth the inconvenience, but you’ve got to be patient,” Collins said.

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