McAlester Mayor John Browne is prepared to try again when it comes to funding the entire first phase of the Streetscape Project.

"It just makes sense to do all of the work at once, instead of breaking it up in different parts," Browne said.

"It's only half a block," the mayor said, referring to the portion of the project that remains to be funded.

A special meeting of the McAlester City Council to address the matter is set for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

It includes a public hearing for any input regarding a proposed budget amendment to fund the money needed to complete the project and a city council vote on the proposed budget amendment. The agenda then calls for the council to consider and act upon accepting the bid amount of $669,583 from Built Right Construction and authorizing the mayor to sign the bid award for the Choctaw Avenue Streetscape Project

City councilors previously discussed the proposed Streetscape Project during their regular May 8 meeting.

After the only bid for the project had come in at $669,583 — $162,583 over the original $507,000 budget — city personnel and engineers from Infrastructure Solutions met to determine how they might scale-back the project.

They then came up with the revised Streetscape plan to exclude construction on the south side of Choctaw Avenue, from South Street to Main Street. Reasons given were that part of the project includes extending the sidewalk along Choctaw Avenue father into the street — but that portion of the sidewalk on the south side of Choctaw Avenue from South Main Street to First Street is already extended farther into the street than the rest of the sidewalk on Choctaw Avenue's south side.

Another reason for the proposal to exclude part of the south side — a void under that portion of the sidewalk that added to the project's total expense.

During the May 8 council meeting, councilors were presented with the reduced bid of $499,838 for the Streetscape project, which excluded the aforementioned sections of Choctaw Avenue's south side.

As an alternative, Browne proposed providing the rest of the money to fund the project and suggested the council vote on providing the entire $669,583 — but Assistant City Manager Toni Ervin reminded the city councilors they would also have to pass a budget amendment if they were going to fund the Streetscape project at a higher level than which it had originally been budgeted.

Ultimately, Browne proposed tabling the matter until he could call a regular meeting to discuss the higher funding level, and the council agreed.

Browne said Tuesday he's going to suggest paying for the remainder of the TIF project by tapping into money the city has collected through its storm water fee. The mayor noted that a portion of the proposed Streetscape project calls for replacement of water lines and construction of new storm drains.

"They are both infrastructure," Browne noted. He also said there is money available in the fund.

In addition to sidewalk extensions, creation of bicycle lanes and planting of trees, flowers and other greenery between South Main Street and Second Street along Choctaw Avenue, another portion of the project calls for new water lines. The increased water pressure that would supposedly result would help with  installation of sprinkler systems designed to open open up more living spaces in lofts and upper-story apartments along Choctaw Avenue.

While one of the aspects of the project that was blamed for resulting in the higher-than-expected bid was the projected expense to fill the underground void along the south side of Choctaw Avenue between South Main Street and the First Street intersection, Browne said the city should go ahead and fund that portion of the project, instead of excluding it.

"If we can fix it, we should," he said.

McAlester Economic Development Director Kirk Ridenour said during the May 8 meeting that if the city does not act on the project by early June, it could lose a $149,000 Streetscape pledge from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Roger Vaughn, of Infrastructure Solutions, said if the city does not soon start on the projected four-month project, there's a possibility work could extend into the Christmas season.

The Streetscape Project is a separate item from the Downtown McAlester Tax Increment Financing Project that failed to pass the council during the May 8 meeting, when only two votes were cast in favor of approving it. Streetscape is not related to the TIF, although both concern downtown McAlester.

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