Church Hill BMA approves $500,000 loan for Derrick Park improvements; rejects bid for railroad crossing into Holliston Mills park

This stock photo gives an idea of what the Church Hill splash pad will look like once finished

Aldermen in the city of Church Hill were busy during their May 19 BMA meeting, as they discussed further plans for their city parks and rejected the low bid on the railroad crossing into the site of the new park on Holliston Mills road.

In addition, the board welcomed the city’s first full-time female police officer and approved the promising 2020-2021 city budget, which is projected to end with a $718,000 surplus. Links to full articles on the latter two topics, which were published in the May 30 Weekend Review, will be added to the online version of this article.

A $500,000 loan for Derrick Park improvements

The BMA unanimously voted in favor of issuing the $500,000 capital outlay note, which they discussed at last month’s meeting, for Derrick Park improvements.

This loan will cover the splash pad, new playground equipment, two new picnic shelters, an amphitheater and additional parking spaces.

$280,000 of the loan is already appropriated for the splash pad, and the remaining $220,000 will cover the new playground equipment, new shelters, an outdoor amphitheater, and additional parking.

Alderman Keith Gibson, who is the chairman of the Parks Committee, told the board that the playground equipment the committee has picked out will cost around $72,000.

The money will be borrowed from U.S. Bank at an interest rate of 2.2 percent.

“At that good of a rate, we would be silly not to jump on it,” Deal told the board at the April meeting. “We have the money to do it, but we’ve got commitments to the park down the road (off of Holliston Mills Road) that we committed to long ago. Our total outstanding debt here in the city is $1.3 million. We could probably go in the morning, should we choose to, and pay it all off and still have about $1.2 million left. Our finances are in pretty good shape. We’ve got the money to do what we need to do down there, but I’m just telling you that we’ve got commitments at Holliston Mills we have to take care of.”

Gibson told the board, however, that time is becoming an issue on getting the playground equipment installed by summer.

“We need to get this playground equipment and stuff bid out,” Gibson told the board.

He went on to explain that the equipment could take around two months to be delivered even after the board bids it out.

“That one of the reasons I’m wanting to hurry and get it out for bid,” he said.

Deal noted that the city has to wait until the next fiscal year to purchase the equipment; however, the board gave Gibson permission to advertise for bids for this equipment.

Gibson also explained that there will have to be an electric hookup extended to the location where the future amphitheater will be located. He also noted that the location where the splash pad will be located has been excavated, and the contractor is expected to begin work soon.

Deal told the board that some workshops will be planned soon to discuss moving forward with both the Holliston Mills and Derrick Parks.

Bid for railroad crossing into Holliston Mills park rejected

The city of Church Hill has been planning for the 65-acre Holliston Mills Park for quite some time now, but it is just now beginning to take shape.

Before the park can be developed, a public railroad crossing must be built to allow citizens to enter the property. This particular project was opened for bid on May 1, however, Deal recommended to the board that they reject the low bid from of $330,460 from McFall Excavating of Clintwood, Va.

“We are currently trying to work with some people concerning the park,” Deal said. “I would recommend, for now, that we not accept that bid until we get through this. We’re going to have to have some workshops concerning that (the park). Hopefully that will happen in the near future.”

“They want to look into different options of reducing the cost of that access road,” City Recorder Josh Russell said in published reports. “They’re looking into the possibility of hooking on water a different way — a couple of different avenues to see if we can decrease that cost off the access road and the utility bores.”

The city has had $1.6 million budgeted for this park since 2016. $500,000 of this actually came from a LPRF (Local Parks and Recreation Fund) state grant, which the city received in 2016, and the other $1.1 million came from local funds.

After the railroad crossing is complete, the city plans to begin a gymnasium as well as a parking lot. The end goal for the park will include four gyms, a soccer field, two baseball fields, four softball fields, walking trails and two fenced-in playgrounds.

This park is still in the planning stages, but the BMA had hopes (prior to COVID-19) to begin work on Phase 1 this year, which includes the railroad crossing followed by construction of a gymnasium, as well as a parking lot.

Facilities begin opening again

Deal also noted that the city’s fitness center, which is located in the back of the Church Hill Library building on E Main Blvd., is now open to pre-COVID-19 hours.

“That seems to be working out pretty well,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive response on that.”

As far as the adjoining Senior Citizens’ Center, Deal noted that the city is still “waiting to see how it goes” with state regulations before it is reopened.

The Church Hill Library is not currently open to the public, but they, along with the entire Hawkins Co. Library System, began offering curbside pickup on June 1.

For more information on curbside pickup availability and hours, visit https://hawkinslibraries.org/.

Grant application

The BMA also voted unanimously in favor of applying for a $177,395 grant through the Tennessee Governor’s Local Government Support Grant Fund to be used for road repairs, upgrades and maintenance.

This particular grant requires no local match.

The grant application was submitted the following day (May 20), and City Recorder Josh Russell noted at the time that the city should find out the status of their application by early summer.

The list of roads the city wishes to work on with these funds has not yet been finalized.

Highway 11-W zoning change

The BMA also approved the first reading of an ordinance that will rezone an eight-acre parcel on the south side of Highway 11-W from B-4, which is for shopping centers, to B-3, which is for arterial business.

The property is located across the highway from the Church Hill Shopping Center.

“We are a busy city, but it’s positive,” Deal noted as he concluded the meeting.

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