City, UTK pair for planning program
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Mar 30, 2014 | 1443 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Cleveland has been chosen to participate in the University of Tennessee’s Smart Communities Initiative Program.

This fall will be the launch of the university’s program to combine cities’ project planning needs with UTK students’ need for hand-on experience.

As a part of the program, Cleveland will receive detailed plans and data for projects that best fit with the classes being offered this semester.

“A continual problem that we have, and I think a lot of communities have unless they are really big and have a lot of staff … is that oftentimes there are opportunities that come for funding but with that funding opportunity comes the expectation that you will have planned and prepared for the projects that you want to fund. When you have staffing limitations … it’s hard to do that kind of stuff because what you wind up spending your time with is the immediate stuff that you have to get built,” planning director Greg Thomas said.

Thomas said Cleveland was chosen because UTK liked that all of the project ideas worked within the goals and objectives of the city’s long-term and strategic plans.

City planner Corey Divel said many of the projects had been discussed as needs in the past.

“This gives us an opportunity to do planning-level work, at least, and perhaps — for some of the stuff — to get into the preliminary engineering aspects,” Thomas said.

The plans can then be used when applying for grants to fund the projects.

The city submitted 19 projects, but not all of them will be a part of the program. Specific programs will be selected based on the classes being offered and the student and faculty expertise.

Thomas said the submitted projects span a variety of departments and disciplines.

“A lot of these things seem to probably gel with architecture or engineering ... but there could well be a lot of other things involved. I know there are some community survey designs and some other things like that. Things that might fall into an IT world and things that would fall into social sciences, even advertising and community relations,” Thomas said.

Many of the projects involve improvements along Inman Street. The projects focus on development, “improvements for pedestrian connections” and narrowing the street to three lanes in some areas.

The need for sidewalks is also highlighted in some of the project ideas.

Other projects submitted for consideration include a way-finding and signage plan for APD 40 Bypass; a design plan for a veterans park on 25th Street; a housing conditions survey for the central city area; a study of a low-clearance rail underpass on Inman Street and possibilities for improvements; a bus shelter plan; development of a computer-based citizen input tool for citizen questions; comments and complaints regarding city services; updating the water quality-related data and analysis for streams; traffic and roadway data studies; a plan for extending the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway along Woolen Mill branch; and development of a marketing and branding plan for the city of Cleveland.

The project proposal list also includes a mountain bike course. The plan describes the project as follows:

“A large portion of the land acquired for the (Spring Branch) industrial park is being left undisturbed for stream protection. Local bicycle groups have begun coordination with the property owners and others, including some foundation funding resources, to developing a world-class mountain bike course that would extend through a portion of the industrial park property and other adjacent properties. The project would promote the preservation of open space together with compatible economic development. A plan is needed to explore environmental and economic benefits and costs.”

To participate in the program will cost the city between $3,000 and $9,000 per project.

The Cleveland City Council recently approved investing up to $100,000 for program participation.

Beverly Lindsey of the city manager’s office will serve as the local coordinator for the program. Each project will have a specific project lead. Divel said these will be employees within the development and engineering department.

Representatives from the program will be coming to Cleveland on May 5 to look at the potential project sites. Final selection of which projects they will move forward with will be selected afterward.