Sanford council told some bond projects may beat time estimate

City leaders also learn of new program to help local jobless
May. 01, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

City officials heard about a new faith-based program for unemployed people, and also discussed their desire to speed up progress on the Sanford municipal bond projects, Wednesday at a meeting of Sanford's law and finance committee.

The Sanford City Council doesn't take any votes at their committee meetings, but they did hold a long discussion Wednesday based on a report from Public Works Director Vic Czar, who said he thought several of the simpler taxpayer-funded bond projects could be completed up to a year earlier than originally imagined.

Preliminary work on all the bond projects has already begun.

The more involved projects, a massive sports complex at O.T. Sloan and the creation or expansion of five greenway walking trails, could still take years, Czar said. But others could possibly be sped up: expanding the city's sidewalk network and creating pedestrian-friendly "streetscape" areas in the downtowns of Jonesboro and Sanford.

A group of new sidewalks stretching from O.T. Sloan to Central Carolina Community College, on Nash Street, Bragg Street and Kelly Drive, could be done this year, Czar said. Other sidewalk projects in the two downtowns, however, might not be completed until 2016 or 2017.

The engineers will get to work on planning the streetscape construction by May 12, and the construction should start next March, Czar said, with a completion date of Sept. 1, 2015, for Jonesboro and Nov. 1, 2015, for Sanford.

That's a year faster than originally planned for Sanford and three months faster than originally planned in Jonesboro, which he said should help local businesses.

"It's very disruptive to the merchants and whatnot," Czar told the city council. "If you notice, we're trying to get out of the construction phase before holiday season. We don't want to be in front of businesses when people are Christmas shopping."

Councilman Rebecca Wyhof asked what the city could do to speed things along even more, but Czar said not much. Any wait periods will be due to red tape in Raleigh, he said, or utility delays from Duke Energy.

Later, Wyhof also asked about plans to keep merchants informed of work progress. Czar said advance notice will be provided when work is going to happen outside a store so the owner can alert customers and plan for parking. The work also will be done in segments instead of en masse, Czar said — slightly more expensive, but a way of trying to help the downtowns by not tearing everything up at once.

Mayor Chet Mann said business owners should recognize that any construction-related stress will be worth it.

"We're talking about short-term pain for long-term gain," he said.

Later, the local Salvation Army's new director Chris Kelley told the council members about a project his organization is starting in conjunction with First Baptist Church.

Jobs For Life will pair volunteer mentors with unemployed people to get them ready for the job market in a number of ways. First, Kelley said, will simply be imparting the message that there's a certain dignity to working that people need to understand.

Then those in the class will get to go around town and meet local employers, learn interview tips, create a short video clip about themselves and their skills, and explore their Christian spirituality with volunteers from the two church-based groups running the program.

"By the end of the class, graduates will have a better understanding of who they are in relation to God, have a better understanding of character [and] be able to speak better in front of a group," Kelley said, adding that in other cities with similar programs, the majority of graduates also seek to further their education after the class ends.

The first free eight-week class begins Wednesday at 10 a.m. at First Baptist, located near downtown on Summit Drive. People who are interested in attending or volunteering for Jobs For Life can contact First Baptist at (919) 774-4220 or Salvation Army at (919) 718-1717.

This is separate from Jobseekers, an unemployment support group at First Baptist, which will continue to meet.

Council also considered:

* An update about the roundabouts the Department of Transportation plans to build on Hawkins Avenue at the off-ramps from U.S. 1. That construction should begin in late August and last 90 days, including 60 days when the area will be partially or completely shut down to all traffic.

* A number of street closures requested by local groups in the coming weeks for various events.

* Banning thru-traffic on Canterbury Road and part of Piedmont Drive, where 18-wheelers have reportedly been knocking over signs, damaging driveways and tearing up lawns.

* Renewing the annual contract for inexpensive inmate labor with the N.C. Department of Corrections.

* An update on escrowed funds.

* Awarding contracts to various firms for projects related to the bonds and to a proposed wastewater master plan.