The Brunswick City Commission took the next step at its Wednesday meeting toward a new pedestrian trail from Overlook Park to the foot of the F.J. Torras Causeway.
Public Works Director Garrow Alberson said the money is coming from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Transpiration Alternatives Program, or TAP. The TAP grant is $548,000 and requires a local match of $137,000 from the city, which he said would come from the “trails and boardwalks” category of SPLOST 2022 revenue.
This is the second TAP grant the GDOT has awarded for the trail’s design, Alberson said, and it will cover the rest of the design process.
“The design contract was about $1.1 million, so we knew we had a cap there. So we went back and this year applied for TAP funding and received an additional grant,” Alberson said.
Commissioner Julie Martin asked how long the project might take and if it will be done in phases. Alberson said the planning phase will likely take another two years.
Whether the project is done in phases depends on GDOT, he said.
“It depends on the available funding at the time. We’ll go back to GDOT and ask for TAP grants or other funding for construction and it depends on how much they’re willing to give us,” Alberson said.
Martin also asked if the trail would allow pedestrian access to the historic visitor center at the foot of the causeway, potentially using it as a rest stop for bike travelers. City Attorney Brian Corry said the city was not encouraged to do so by the GDOT due to the heavy traffic there and the expense it would add to construct a safe means of access.
Brunswick Mayor Cosby Johnson asked if the city could look for other organizations to pitch in to add to the project.
“There’s other avenues we can look at as far as recreation or outdoor programs,” Albesron said. “But DOT will probably continue to be the primary funding source.”
The trail will qualify to be part of the East Coast Greenway when complete, Alberson said.
Flooding at the causeway was the primary concern of Commissioner Johnny Cason, who said any upgrades there should include drainage improvements.
The commission also discussed how to include the trail into a longer marshfront trail, incorporating the patch of upland on which Marshside Grill sits.
Cason said he used to swim there frequently when it was a public dock and marina.
“We need to be intentional about connectivity. Looking five years, 10 years, 15 years into the future … that’s something to be re-imagined in the process,” said Commissioner Felicia Harris.
In other business, commissioners:
• Voted to apply for a grant to continue implementation of the city’s Rethinking Runoff drainage improvement plan. The money will allow the city to further study drainage issues at three problem sites and implement some fixes. The funding would also give the city the resources to provide information and supplies for installing rain barrels and rain gardens to trap stormwater and take some pressure off the drainage system, Alberson said.
• Voted to approve a $3.7 million contract with Woodard Construction Co. to upgrade the drainage system at Macon and Talmadge avenues in Brunswick. Alberson said it’s the No. 2 project in the Rethinking Runoff plan. All permits with other government agencies have been secured aside from one by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which should be received “any day now,” Alberson said. As proposed, the project includes larger drains and pipes, which flow underground under U.S. 17 and into the marsh, along with tide control valves to prevent tidewater from flooding the drainage system at high tide.
• Approved alcohol licenses for two new stores, A&S Market at 1001 First Ave. and Solar 108 at 1008 Bay St. Both locations are under new ownership. Commissioners Harris and Kendra Rolle and Mayor Johnson discussed with the owner some of the issues nearby residents have had with patrons at both in the past. The owners said they were taking precautions to head off any potential problems.
• Deferred an agreement with Structor Group to replace windows and AC units in St. Mark’s Towers. Johnson said the city was still working with St. Mark’s Towers but needed to work out some particulars before approving the item.
At the end of the meeting, commissioners entered a closed session to discuss litigation.