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October 11, 2018

Donations sought to bury Marshall Main St. utilities

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Burying utility lines would cost an additional $1.5 million.
I understand that we’re not always going to get exactly what we want on a project like this. But what we get is so important to the health, the vibrancy of this community.
— Mary Leigh McDaniel, Marshall District supervisor
Marshall Main St. Project
Key features include:

• New sidewalks and crosswalks along Main Street from just east of Winchester Road (Route 17) to just west of Frost Street near the old IGA.

• New sidewalks and crosswalks on Winchester Road.

• Moving electrical, phone and cable TV lines underground, eliminating utility poles.

• New street trees, lamps, benches and landscaping.

• A decorative, knee-high brick wall fronting 7-Eleven store at Rectortown Road and Main Street.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A plan to improve a one-block portion of Marshall’s Main Street could include burying utility lines after all.

County Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel, whose Marshall District includes the Northern Fauquier village, Tuesday night outlined a fundraising strategy to raise the $1.5 million needed to cover that expense during the Marshall Business and Residents Association meeting.

That would push the improvement project’s total cost to about $6.3 million.

The plan also calls for new sidewalks, crosswalks, street trees, lamps benches, landscaping along Main Street from just east of Winchester Road (Route 17) to just west of Frost Street near the old IGA.

Those improvements would cost about $4.8 million, including $3.6 million in federal funds.

A 20-percent local match — including revenue from Marshall’s special district for street lights and a $400,000 developer proffer — totals $1.2 million.

To proceed with the project, the county must get construction bid approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation by Nov. 20, or risk losing all federal funding.

Fauquier could get VDOT approval by that date for just the planned streetscape improvements.

But some critics argue the county should scrap the entire project, if it doesn’t include burying utility lines, as originally planned.

Ms. McDaniel learned about a month ago that VDOT would give the county an “extension” to raise funds to move electrical, phone and cable TV lines underground and eliminate utility poles.

“VDOT has said, even though our deadline for the project to go to bid is Nov. 20, they are going to give us some additional time to raise the $1.5 million that will allow us to do the undergrounding as part of the initial project,” she told the MBRA meeting audience.

But, the Nov. 20 deadline may not be critical.

“The federal government is not the quickest,” project manager and county Office of Management and Budget Director Erin Kozanecki said in an interview. “They don’t necessarily pull back funds until the end of their fiscal year.”

The fiscal year will end Sept. 30, 2019.

Beginning Nov. 20, 2008, Fauquier effectively had 10 years to get to the bid approval stage of the project.

Based on the county’s recent efforts to advance the project, it would appear “the spirit of that (10-year) rule would be met,” suggested Stacey Londrey, assistant district manager in VDOT’s Culpeper office.

“They want to see these projects succeed,” Ms. Londrey said of the Federal Highway Administration.

“I do believe the goal of the FHA is to see the money allocated” for transportation projects, “to be used and be productive.”
VDOT didn’t give the county a deadline to raise the $1.5 million.

As a practical matter, Fauquier should have the $1.5 million in hand by Dec. 1, so that it can bid the complete project in the spring, Ms. Kozanecki said.

If the additional money can’t be raised by then, the project will be bid without the utility component.

Ms. McDaniel about 10 days ago assembled Marshall business people, property owners and residents to develop a fund-raising plan.

The nine-member “focus group,” which met for about 90 minutes, identified 30 potential “donors” and agreed to prepare “talking points” to sell the project to them and the community, the Marshall supervisor said.

“If we’re working together as a community, we’re going to be stronger,” Ms. McDaniel told the audience. “I’m confident we can do this $1.5 million, if we all work together to get there.”

Hosted by the MBRA, about 70 attend the hour-and-20-minute meeting in the Marshall Ruritan Club building on Salem Avenue.

MBRA’s board prepared dozens of questions, which Ms. McDaniel, Ms. Kozanecki and others helped answer.

Audience members posed questions of their own.

Topics ran the gamut, including various issues related to burying utility lines, the proposed street light type, the use of brick versus stamped concrete for sidewalks and landscaping.

The association in September conducted a contentious information meeting on the project.

A few people on Tuesday night doubted the wisdom of narrowing Main Street lanes in the project area from 12 to 11 feet wide.

Narrower lanes accomplish a few key objectives, Ms. McDaniel said.

They slow traffic, improve safety and still can accommodate all types of vehicles, she explained.

They also add an extra foot to sidewalks on both sides of Main Street, making them Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant and more pedestrian friendly, Ms. McDaniel added.

In answer to several questions, the county has obtained all easements needed for the streetscape portion of the project, she said.

Fauquier still needs two easements related to undergrounding utilities, the supervisor said.

“There’s no pressuring of anybody. We’re just hopeful that people will see the benefit of this wonderful enhancement of Main Street and will be willing to give us the necessary easements.”

Ms. McDaniel rejected the idea that Fauquier would walk away from the project.

“If we had a community that worked on a project for 20 years (that) at the last minute decided they didn’t want to do it for whatever reasons, then I can pretty much guarantee that the federal government and VDOT are not going to give any more money to this community” any time soon, Ms. McDaniel said.

If Fauquier cancelled the project, taxpayers also would “be on the hook” to reimburse VDOT almost $500,000 spent mostly on engineering work, according the supervisor.

“I understand that we’re not always going to get exactly what we want on a project like this,” Ms. McDaniel said. “But what we get is so important to the health, the vibrancy of this community.

“We simply can’t lose sight of that.”

The planned improvements — even if they don’t immediately include undergrounding utility lines — will enhance Main Street, drawing more people and businesses to downtown for the benefit of all, Ms. McDaniel told the audience.

“Main streets are the lifeblood of small towns, and this is certainly true in Marshall.”
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BJ · October 11, 2018 at 6:52 pm
Where's George Thompson?
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