It’s summertime, when the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing and a young administrator’s heart yearns for…. Asphalt. Even with most of the world on hold due to COVID-19, Pembroke has a full docket including four repaired railroad crossings, one removed railroad crossing, three resurfaced streets through the GDOT-LMIG program, one (possibly two) newly paved streets thanks to T-Splost and rehabilitating and expanding sidewalks through a GDOT-Streetscape grant. All this on top of the usual repairs that take place in summer while school buses are off the road.
GDOT will soon begin its community input meetings for the STIP list that outline projects and improvements on state routes over the next four years. Hwy 280 between Poplar and Warnell Streets is carrying over from last years list and the City hopes to resurface our downtown parking concurrently. Also on the horizon is a reconfiguration of the Ash Branch-Camellia/ 119-Smith Street/North College intersection for improved safety and sight distance. Greatly boosting the feasibility of this project is the City’s purchase of the Board of Education’s former Elementary school property (“the ballfield”).
While the Street Dept is running wide open, the Water Dept hasn’t been sitting around. The winning recipients of Community Development Block Grants are to be announced in the fall and if the City is fortunate enough to receive one, work will begin on lining old faulty terra cotta sewer lines with PVC to cut down on inflow and infiltration of groundwater into the treatment system. Recent rain has stressed the capacity of lift stations and the treatment plant and every gallon counts.
Just as summer began and these projects were scheduled, the City was hit with one unanticipated variable: the closure of the detention center in Claxton. With no inmate labor, the Public Works force was almost cut in half causing a scramble for seasonal labor and labor-cutting solutions. These inmates main focus was historically canals and the stormwater system so their absence on the eve of hurricane and summer flood season was unfortunate to say the least.
On the private-public partnership side, the City has found other opportunities for improvement and learned new experiences. The construction of Ash Branch Manor, a seventy-unit senior apartment complex and the city’s first three story building, revealed deficiencies in water pressure for taller buildings. The City identified where the larger diameter pipe on Ash Branch Rd ends and is currently gathering permits for an extended line which will improve pressure and fire suppression capability all the way to downtown. This along with the proposed intersection work mentioned earlier will open up opportunities for the “ballfield” previously unattainable. Much of the route of this larger line overlaps the proposed sidewalks saving the city expensive survey’s and wetland delineations.
While asphalt, pipes and land use are what gets yours truly, City Administrator Alex Floyd, up in the morning, Mayor and Council are more excited about a new City Hall building almost ready for bid. Rightfully so, Mayor and Council have worked in 160 North Main Street since 1977. The current City Hall building will be renovated and converted to Police Headquarters and will remain the site of monthly court. The new City Hall building located in the “triangle” of North Main and Strickland Street will be a state-of-the-art facility with a drive-thru for utility payments, improved technology for the seeing and hearing impaired during public hearings and a larger fireproof map and records room.
Next up: CHIP 2.0, Census 2020 and the prettiest red legs in Pembroke…
Floyd is Pembroke’s city administrator.