The volunteer board of the Marshall Business & Residents Association has come under attack by “pro-project people” since one year ago when we publicly announced that our board's majority vote was against the Marshall Main Street improvement project in its current form.
Why is the MBRA's position relevant?
A) This was originally an MBRA project; the MBRA is the original grant applicant for this project that is now managed by the county.
B) The MBRA was created as a 501(c)(4). Our mission includes informing "residents and businesspersons about local concerns." Current leadership takes that seriously, especially regarding the largest project in Marshall and one that comes with a tax bill five times what the current special lighting tax is now. Talk about improving Main Street has been going on for decades, but the devil is in the ever-changing details, which have been coming out over the past 18 months.
At the county's pre-bid meeting we attended on Nov. 6, we heard contractors voice their concern, saying "we know it's all rock under there." Additionally, the county has stated that they have discovered "environmental contaminants." Both the presence of the hard rock that Marshall sits on and the presence of environmental contaminants will add significant delays on top of the nine months allotted for this project. Such effects on our small businesses will be crushing.
One contractor at the pre-bid meeting voiced concern for the effects of rock removal on the foundations of our buildings that are close to the road. Rock that is in the way of burying utility lines, planting trees, etc., may have to be removed by "hoe rams," according to county documents. Online research of "vibration damage" reveals the potential damage to buildings close to the work, and affirms the concerns raised by the contractor.
Other concerns exist.
Have proper procedures been followed in obtaining all easements?
All project financials need sunlight. At the Nov. 27 meeting at the Ruritans, the former project manager announced that, through good management practices and through eliminating duplication, they had just cut the cost to underground in half; from $1.5 million to $750,000. By April 2019 the cost had quietly gone back up to $1.2 million without explanation. Why?
We do not have to choose the county's plan. Why?
1) Marshall is very different than it was on Oct. 30, 2008, when the MBRA first applied for the grant. Then it was stated that Marshall needed revitalization. Now, in 2019, Marshall is bustling. 2) This project would narrow Main Street by two feet. Our original grant applications kept Main Street as wide as it is now, with no narrowing.
3) Many residents and businesses who must bear this tax burden say they did not and do not consent to the increase/project.
4) The cost for this one block ballooned from $1.7 million in 2009 to over $6 million in 2019, and Supervisor (Mary) McDaniel has informed our board that the cost of the project is expected to well exceed the county's budget for the project.
5) The county has discussed expanding the special lighting tax district boundaries and could do so to help pay for maintenance.
6) State-of-the-art cost-saving options now available would enable improvements that retain our unique character.
Choose alternative plan for a safer Main Street
For a fraction of $6 million and without narrowing Main Street, we can improve and beautify our entire Main Street with new streetlights, crosswalks and ADA accessibility while preserving our small businesses, our people and our community. See www.ShapingMarshallTogether.com for an efficient low-cost alternative plan and a petition against this impractical project.
Whatever your opinion, now is the time to make your voice heard. Chairman Chris Butler informed me that this project is not a "done deal" until the contracts are awarded. Bids come in Dec. 3. Board of Supervisors meeting is Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at 10 Hotel St. in Warrenton. For info on the county's Main Street plans, see the Main Street tab on MBRA’s website: www.MarshallVirginia.org. Call the MBRA at 540-364-3400.