Tryon debates whether to complete streetscape at Missildine’s

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Town of Tryon is currently discussing whether to take out a loan to complete the streetscape project in the Oak and Trade Street area of downtown at the Missildine’s building, currently being restored by Scott and Gayle Lane. The Lane’s say the plan is to have the restoration complete around the middle of 2016. (Photos by Leah Justice)

The Town of Tryon is currently discussing whether to take out a loan to complete the streetscape project in the Oak and Trade Street area of downtown at the Missildine’s building, currently being restored by Scott and Gayle Lane. The Lane’s say the plan is to have the restoration complete around the middle of 2016. (Photos by Leah Justice)

Shortly after swearing in a new mayor and new commissioner, Tryon Town Council discussed whether or not to move forward with approximately $80,000 worth of improvements in the Missildine area of downtown, the former Tryon Federal Bank building currently being restored on the corner of Oak and Trade Streets.

Council met on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and discussed a request by Missildine building owner Scott Lane, who asked that the town’s streetscape project be completed on the block, including a sidewalk along Oak Street.

Although all commissioners and Mayor Alan Peoples seemed to be in favor of moving forward if funding can be secured, some commissioners said they are not comfortable expediting one project before other street projects that have been on the town’s capital improvement plan (CIP) for years.

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Commissioner Roy Miller said Tryon has a CIP of streets and sidewalks that have never been touched. He said the town has purchased equipment to work on these projects.

“We still have fire hydrants that aren’t working in this town,” Miller said.

Miller said the town has other needed street projects, including East Howard Street and drainage and erosion issues.

“It’s going to be a real hard sell to our citizens to move on one project when we have projects (that have been) on the books for 10 years,” Miller said.

The solution to all projects is for the town to take out a large loan, with the amount of $300,000 mentioned Tuesday, to complete the streetscape project as well as other needed street and sidewalks around town. Council mentioned paying back the debt service on the loan with state Powell Bill funding every year.

Lane told council he and his wife Gayle have made a substantial investment in the buildings and hopes to be finished with the restoration by the middle of next year. He said they have always thought of the project as a means to bring more visitors and residents to Tryon. The restoration of the building includes bringing back the historic facade that originally included three buildings. The Lanes’ plans include creating street level retail space, apartments upstairs and a restaurant downstairs in the three-story space.

Lane said there is no sidewalk on the Oak Street side of the building.



“There was a streetscape plan in 2001 and updated in 2008 that calls for reimagining of that section (of downtown),” Lane said. “We’re hoping now as we move along with our project, here’s our opportunity to work on that intersection.”

Tyron has completed many improvements to downtown over the past several years, including sidewalks in other sections of downtown and matching crosswalks with brick. The block in question does not yet have matching sidewalks in front of businesses or a sidewalk on that side of Oak Street for access to the back of the buildings.

Tyron Community Development Director Paula Kempton said the town has already spent approximately $7,000 for a design of the project. Trace & Company, which has completed a couple of projects for the town, including Maple Street improvements and the depot plaza, submitted an estimate to complete the streetscape for $77,600. Another estimate came in at $121,000. Compton said there will be grant funding available through the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT), but the next grant cycle is not until 2017.

Newly elected commissioner Crys Armbrust, who used to work for the town and has worked closely on several downtown projects in the past said he doesn’t think the town has in excess of a year to wait for DOT funding.

“I would urge us seriously to consider the Trace bid and designate where the funding temporarily should come from and make every honest attempt to find funding to cover that sum,” said Armbrust.

Other commissioners asked, “How are we going to pay for it?”

Tyron Town Manager Joey Davis said the town could take out a loan or pull the money out of fund balance. Davis said council had previous discussions about taking out a large loan to do street improvements and paying the debt service with Powell Bill money.

Newly elected Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples said the town could potentially borrow up to $300,000, which would equate to about $20,000 a year from Powell Bill money to pay back the debt service.

Town employees said the town should currently have over $1 million in fund balance, but Peoples said he doesn’t want to take the money from the town’s savings.

Commissioner Bill Ingham said he’d like to see the streetscape project get done, as long as the town doesn’t see its fund balance drop and as long as other projects that haven’t been done are included.

Armbrust said two of his principal platforms when running for commissioner were the completion of the streetscape project and improving residential infrastructure. He said it’s imperative the town include monies if it seeks a loan to complete residential infrastructure projects previously discussed, particularly in the Eastside community.

Miller said he’d love to do the streetscape project, but he doesn’t want to expedite one project over the others.

“I think we owe it to the citizens as a whole to look at things on the capital improvement plan,” Miller said.

He said he agrees the Lanes need a sidewalk, but he just can’t see borrowing half a million dollars without prioritizing what streets on the list need to be done over a project not on that list.

Ingham said the town wants to get the project done, and the town has been promising people other projects will get done for a long time.

“I don’t see any reason we can’t get them both done,” said Ingham.

Council decided to direct Public Works Director Gary Walker to survey all the streets that need paving, sidewalks that need repairs, and areas that need sidewalks. Davis said he would come back to council with a comprehensive list and approximate costs.

Commissioner Bill Crowell, who was appointed by council last month to fill a vacancy left by former commissioner Happy McLeod who resigned, said he doesn’t want four options to pay for the projects; he wants Davis to come back with one option to pay for the projects.

Council said it is possible the town may call a special meeting to discuss the projects prior to the next meeting in January.

Council also on Tuesday approved an easement for the Lanes to construct a handicap access on the Oak Street side of the building. The easement is for a door to be on the west side (Oak Street side) to construct a handicap ramp, which will parallel the building.