Downtown merchants have several improvement projects on drawing board

By Rozella Hardin

   The Elizabethton Downtown Merchants Association has a number of ideas on the drawing board, but the first step will be to elect officers and draw up a set of bylaws.
   Volunteering to serve on the nominating committee were David Pinckard, Pam Huber, John Bunn, Loretta Pierce and Cleo Reed.
   Appointed as a committee to draw up bylaws were Joe Alexander, John Huber and Carol Chase.
   The two committees will report back on June 27 when the downtown merchants will meet at 8 a.m.
   John Huber told merchants that he had met with City Manager Charles Stahl and was told by Stahl that the merchants had the support of the city in any cooperative project they approved, but first the group needed to have some bylaws and a formal roster of officers. "The city has committed $5,000 to this organization for downtown improvements, but first we need to let them know we are serious and elect a slate of officers and draw up some bylaws," Huber said.
   The group has already been signing up members with the annual fee being $100.
   Bunn noted that the next move by the group should be to set up a membership committee. "We need to make sure we are reaching everyone downtown," he said.
   Some of the ideas already being discussed by the merchants include repairing and updating the sound system downtown for music; removing the Bradford pear trees on Elk Avenue and replacing them with smaller trees as well as raised planters with seating at each street corner. Huber said taking the pear trees down would cost about $3,200.
   Another project already on the drawing board is the replacement of the globe lights on Elk Avenue with a design to conform more with that at the Veterans Memorial Park. Two drawings by Sykes and Reedy Architects were on display -- one a decorative globe type light and the other a wrought-iron street-post design. Huber said there were 100 lights in the downtown. Brackets for the lights would cost approximately $3,000 and the fixtures, $5,000. Huber said the city had agreed to provide some of the labor on these projects.
   Eventually, the lighting and landscaping will be extended to E and F streets and the side trees.
   David Ornduff, city planner, said the city plans to make some improvements on E Street to conform with Elk Avenue such as the planting of trees. "We want to make this street more attractive," he said.
   He also noted that the city has a full-time crew assigned to the downtown to pick up garbage and keep it clean.
   Ornduff told the merchants that the city wants to be part of their efforts. "The downtown belongs to all of us. The downtown reflects who we are, what we are about, and why we are. It is the personality of this community," he exclaimed.
   He noted that the building occupancy rates in the downtown is far above that of surrounding cities.
   Ornduff also noted that work will soon begin on refurbishing the Covered Bridge. Work is expected to be completed on the Elk Avenue Bridge this summer and fall. "It is scheduled to re-open on November 15," he said.
   "Next year when we have the Covered Bridge Celebration, both bridges will have been completely refurbished," he said. In the meantime, he urged people to stay off the Elk Avenue Bridge. "It is closed to both traffic and pedestrians," he said.
   Keith Young, co-chairman of this year's Covered Bridge Celebration Committee, thanked merchants for their participation in this year's celebration. He invited merchants to attend an evaluation meeting on June 23 and offer ideas for next year's celebration.