Downtown merchants told Elk Avenue Bridge will not be completed before holidays

By Rozella Hardin
Members of the Elizabethton Downtown Business Association have been advised that refurbishment of the Elk Avenue Bridge will not be completed before December or January.
"It certainly will not be finished by Nov. 15 nor for the Christmas parade. I do not look for it to be completed and re-opened to traffic until after the first of the year," said David Ornduff, director of planning for the city of Elizabethton, during a meeting of the association held Friday.
Ornduff said weather and unanticipated contracting problems will delay the opening.
As a result, chamber officials say the annual Christmas parade will begin this year at the Elk and Lynn Avenue intersection and will proceed east on Elk Avenue. "The complete parade route has not been worked out yet," a chamber spokesman said.
Ornduff also told merchants that Bradford pear trees in the downtown area won't be removed until November. "The spec for bids should go out next week. The bid must then be approved by the city council, and that probably won't be done until October," he said.
Some downtown merchants expressed they would like to see the trees removed as soon as possible, while others said they prefer work on Elk Avenue be delayed until after the holidays. "November and December is an important retail climate for merchants. It is a bad time to tear things up," opined Darrell Cannon, owner of Cannon Appliance.
"We need to start doing things to let the public know we are doing something downtown," said John Bunn, who owns The Coffee Company, and Pat Green, owner of Duck Crossing Antiques.
John Huber, beautification committee chairman, said it is hoped that work can begin on new planters in the downtown area as soon as the trees are removed. "We would like to have everything completed by Covered Bridge Days," he said.
Projects in the downtown area include new planters, new trees, and new and different ornamental canopy lighting.
Huber said he is working with General Shale on a design for the planters, which will be approximately 12 feet long and six feet wide and will be located at each street corner. "On the high side the cost of each planter is expected to be about $800," Huber said, adding that businesses and individuals may purchase the planters, which can be dedicated in memory of a family member or friend.
The cost of the 17 trees which will replace the Bradford pears is expected to run about $100 per tree, Huber explained. The Carter County U-T Extension Service has been given the task of selecting the species of tree to be planted downtown.
Huber also said the canopy face would be repainted as well as the sign cans. The new lighting will be attached to the canopies with ornamental iron brackets.
Loretta Pierce, treasurer for the organization, said that, as of Friday morning, 38 businesses had paid memberships of $100 each. She noted that the Woman's Civic Club had donated $150 to the association and Elizabethton Federal had given a $200 donation. "We have over $4,500 in the bank and are nearing the $5,000 mark," she said. Once the association has $5,000 in the bank, the city of Elizabethton has agreed to match the total with another $5,000.
The association is making plans for a downtown car show on Sept. 20 and a fall festival on Oct. 25.
Downtown merchants are urged to open their businesses from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 20 when the car show will be held in the two western-most blocks of Elk Avenue and E Street. "We will have a puzzle with clues, which can be picked up in downtown stores. The winner of the puzzle will receive a cash prize," said Bunn.
The fall festival, which will also be held on a Saturday, will include family activities as well as activities for children.
Pat Green displayed a copy of Tennessee Magazine, which featured historic Elizabethton and attractions in the town.
"I think we can be the strongest downtown in the region without much effort. We just need to stay organized and work at it," Bunn said.
The group will meet again Sept. 26 at 8 a.m. at The Coffee Company.