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Avondale Estates Mayor focuses on progress, major projects in state of the city speech

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Avondale Estates Mayor focuses on progress, major projects in state of the city speech

Photo caption: Avondale Estates Mayor Jonathan Elmore focused on progress and the city’s major construction and policy projects in the State of the City Address given on Wednesday, May 5, via Zoom. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
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Avondale Estates, Ga. — Last year cities across the state, including Avondale Estates, had to cancel events and change the way they interacted with the community.

But Avondale Estates has persevered, the city’s mayor says.

Mayor Jonathan Elmore during his May 5 State of the City Address outlined all the progress Avondale Estates has made recently, especially regarding capital projects.

“The progress we’ve made in the last 18 months is impressive and worth celebrating and 2021 will be a year for healing, a year for recovery, and a year for progress,” Elmore said.

In 2020 the city faced challenges with the pandemic and did soul-searching about racial inequities in the city, Elmore says.

“We are committed to implementing a unified vision for Avondale Estates that is inclusive, mindful of our actions, and a model for others,” Elmore said. “One of the first steps is to take an honest and hard look at our policing practices.”

The Avondale Estates Police Department is obtaining state accreditation from the Georgia Association of Police Chiefs. The process examines policies and procedures and seeks to implement best practices.

The City Commission began conversations about evaluating the police department’s policies and procedures in June 2020. The board first considered hiring a third-party consultant in August 2020 and interviewed candidates in September 2020.

The city has not moved forward with hiring a consultant as the City Commission and city staff are waiting for the police department to finish the accreditation process.

“As a staff, we still recommend to the board the same things that our two consultants recommended, which is making it through completion of this accreditation process before releasing a [request for proposals] for a third party review,” City Manager Patrick Bryant said at the March 10, 2021 work session.

The city started 2020 committed to bringing many of its bold initiatives to fruition. The pandemic caused some delays, but the city made great strides forward and are on track to do so in 2021, Elmore said.

One of the largest and most transformative projects the city is undertaking is the construction of the town green. The project includes the construction of a park and a potential event pavilion that will be located along Highway 278/ North Avondale Road.

The City Commission, the Urban Redevelopment Agency and the Downtown Development Authority have been working on this effort. The city boards are working with Fabric Developers to design and construct the park.

Fabric Developers recently recommended Reeves Young as the firm to construct the town green. The base bid came in at about $5.7 million which includes the park, stormwater, construction of the new street and the interim solution.

The scope of this project has changed slightly as the commercial development is not feasible at this time. The original concept included a mixed-use, condo-retail building but a temporary solution will be put in its place.

The temporary solution that will essentially be an event pavilion for food trucks, pop up stores and other things to activate the park.

“After years of thoughtful debate and planning, we will break ground this summer and anticipate cutting the ribbon by the end of the year,” Elmore said.

In conjunction with the town green project, the city is building a new street connecting Washington and Parry Streets, which was one of the key recommendations that came out of the downtown street grid plan that was adopted in 2019.

“On the surface it might seem small, [but] the connection is huge,” Elmore said.

The U.S. 278 project is another project the city has been working on for some time. The highway is overbuilt and divides the neighborhood from the central business district, Elmore said.

The city hopes to make the highway safer and more walkable. In 2017, Avondale received federal and state funds to transform the corridor.

“The $7 million project will reduce lanes from five to three, with a 10-foot wide multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians for the one-mile stretch from Sams Crossing to Ashton Place,” Elmore said. “This transformation will address a long list of safety hazards and help drive future economic development.”

The concept plans and environmental reviews for the project were approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The city is working to acquire the right of way necessary for the project and is on track to begin construction in the summer of 2022.

Avondale Estates is tackling stormwater this year, a system that has been problematic for years due to the lack of maintenance of the aging system.

“Working with Brown and Caldwell, we developed a proactive, comprehensive stormwater management program to meet our regulatory requirements, address flooding issues and maintain or repair our aging stormwater system,” Elmore said.

Funding for stormwater issues has affected the speed at which the city can address stormwater problems. This led the City Commission to recently triple the stormwater fees to enable the city to address the most pressing stormwater infrastructure failures.

One of the most exciting upcoming stormwater projects is the North Woods project that will address the wooded area near the community club by Lake Avondale, Elmore said.

“We will not only eliminate erosion and sediment, but we will also introduce rain gardens, walking trails and interpretive markers,” Elmore said. “Construction is expected to begin later this summer.”

The public works facility has been a topic of conversation for a few years and throughout last year the City Commission contemplated moving the facility to a new location, doing minor renovations and completely renovating the existing facility.

The City Commission recently made the decision to renovate the existing facility and keep the department there for a while. The estimated cost of the renovations is up to $265,000.

“As such, we’ve already started the renovation of our public works facility to improve the working conditions for our staff and to create a more efficient workspace,” Elmore said. “This is really good news. We will finish this year.”

Elmore thanked the public works staff for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic and performing their duties with no interruption of service while undergoing a change in leadership and reorganization.

Avondale has worked on significant policy based initiatives including the update to the historic district guidelines and rewriting the zoning code.

The historic district guidelines were completed toward the end of last year and are currently in place.

“Similarly, we adopted new historic district guidelines that are clear, easy to understand and leave less room for subjective interpretation,” Elmore said.

The city is currently working on the zoning code rewrite. The City Commission is waiting to receive recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Board before moving toward adoption of the document, which is anticipated to happen this summer.

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