November 20, 2017
Bids have been submitted for some of the improvements to Fieldale and Bassett as part of the Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project.
However, it could be January before they are taken to the Henry County Board of Supervisors for final approval of contracts, according to Lee Clark, the county’s director of Planning, Zoning and Inspections.
Three bids have been received and a contract was nearly ready to be awarded for improvements to the Fieldale Community Center grounds, Clark said. He refers to it as a streetscape project that includes sidewalks, a stage, plantings, lights, resurfaced tennis courts, fencing, handicapped ramps, a community sign and other work on or near the community center grounds.
However, that contract will not be finalized until bids are in for a similar project in Bassett, Clark said.
The bid for the Fieldale work came in slightly more than anticipated and will be negotiated to fit the budget, he said, adding that the bid and the budget are not far off.
But in light of that, Clark said he decided to hold off on awarding the Fieldale bid until it can be balanced with the Bassett streetscape project “to make sure there’s money for both” or change the projects if needed, Clark said. Funding for both of those projects will come from the same account, he added.
The apparent low bidder for the Fieldale work — a local contractor — understands the reason for the delay, Clark said, adding, “We have to get Bassett streetscape (bids) out as soon as possible.”
Three bids also have been received for facade improvements in Bassett, Clark said. Those bids are being evaluated and the apparent low bidder has not yet been notified, he added.
The Bassett facade project will include removing decorative panels from the commercial buildings and restoring the brick work, Clark said at a May meeting on the project. Sidewalks will be repaired, and other work will be done as needed.
“My goal is to have all this settled and the two projects ready to go to the supervisors by January,” Clark said.
Both the Fieldale and Bassett projects are initiatives of the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, a group of community leaders working through The Harvest Foundation to make improvements to Bassett, Stanleytown, Fieldale and Koehler. The project received a $700,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in 2016, and those funds are being augmented by other contributions and private donations.
Also, a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will be used to upgrade the former Bassett train depot. Because that is separate from funds being used for streetscape and facade work, bids may be sought for the depot next, Clark said.
ARC is a federal-state agency that helps fund community and economic development efforts in localities in and near the Appalachian Mountains.
That leaves Fieldale facade work and Bassett streetscape work as the remaining unbid parts of the Small Towns Collaborative effort.
Allyson Rothrock, president of The Harvest Foundation, said recently she is anxious to see the plans become reality.
“This project is a critical element in the overall strategy in our region to revitalize and incentivize residents and visitors alike to invest in our community. We are now moving forward quickly and are anxious to see the momentum and dreams of many come to fruition,” she said.
Andrew Kahle, president of the Fieldale Recreation Center, which is part of Fieldale Heritage Inc., said the bid requests are “exciting … We’re excited that it’s finally happening.”
“I know it’s taken a long time probably longer in Fieldale than most people were comfortable with,” he said. “But we looked at the first draft of the plans” that were created several years ago and decided to do a 180-degree shift.
“It took a while, but we didn’t want to rush it. We wanted to make sure it would fit with what we want to do now,” Kahle said.
The original plans focused on improving the exterior of the community center, creating a vendor’s market, and doing façade and streetscape work in the central business.
But after a new organization took ownership of the community center, it tackled the job of raising about $150,000 to refurbish and reopen the center’s pools. This past summer was the first full season of operation of the pools and it was successful “beyond any of our expectations,” Kahle said.
“We felt confident that if we got the pools open, people would come and join,” he said, adding that is just what happened. “It was a smashing success.”
One way the group raised funds for the pool work was through outdoor concerts that have attracted 750 to 1,000 people each, Kahle said. Groups such as the Rogues and FATZ perform on a homemade wooden stage, and ABC and food vendors serve the crowd, he said.
A permanent stage would allow the group to host more than one band and hold concerts on more than one night, Kahle said. For that reason, a stage and prefabricated structure assembly now are included in the Small Towns Collaborative’s Phase 1 plans for Fieldale.
“We have the capability to close Marshall Way, which everyone seems to enjoy,” Kahle said. “Once we get a permanent stage, we will have a facility where we can have bigger shows.”
The plans also include resurfacing the tennis courts, which will have markings for multiple uses. Also, Kahle said the new sidewalks will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
“What we’re leading to is 2019, the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of Fieldale. Hopefully all of that will be in place (by then),” he said.
Jeb Bassett, the co-chairman of the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, noted that more than three years have passed since the collaborative began. He praised the fact that bids finally were sought on the work.
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