Arch Street project headed to next step

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 23, 2005

The future of the Arch Street project looked a little brighter after Friday’s Demopolis City Council meeting. However, a definite Riverwalk project is not set in stone. The council voted to take the next step in inquiring about the possibilities the project would present and the problems that could arise.

Prior to the voting Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson reminded everyone the vote was simply to seek the advice of professionals as to the feasibility of the project.

“There seems to be some misconception that the vote of this council today has the possibility of bringing bulldozers down to Arch Street Monday morning,” Williamson said. “That is not how it works. This is a governmental process.”

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Williamson said the council simply wanted to get input from a professional so they could make the necessary changes to the current plan.

“The issue we are voting on today is to go to the next step of the Arch Street project,” Williamson said. “That next step will involve an architectural engineer to go in and bring to this council a design. What we have now is a plan. We do not have a design.”

Once the design is presented to the council there will be several steps remaining to push the project through. The council will take into consideration the engineers advice on erosion, the impact on historical land and other problems that could arise. The council will then have the opportunity to vote up or down on the design.

If the design is approved step three will go into motion. The design will be sent to the Alabama Department of Transportation where it must be approved before further progress can be made. The design will then come back to the council again where they will put it out for bids. Once the bids are received they will vote once again to start the project.

The process will not be a fast one. In order to put together a project everyone can agree on and be proud of it will take a great deal of negotiation and careful study.

Williamson said Friday’s vote would just be a small piece of the puzzle.

“This is not an up or down vote on the project today,” Williamson said. “This vote is to take us to the next step. That is what we are voting on today. To see if we want to go to the next step.”

For over e century the Arch Street project has created numerous arguments in Demopolis. Councilman Jack Cooley said Arch Street has been disputed since the nineteenth century making it an even more difficult decision.

“This not been an easy decision to arrive at,” Cooley said. “Arch Street has been in disagreement, controversy and even litigation for 117 years.”

Cooley said the first disagreement began on June 11, 1888 and has not died since. Through the years the arguments have become heated and Cooley said he hated to see any project separate a city.

“I really regret that the Arch Street project has reached the level of frustration, anger, finger pointing and name calling,” Cooley said. “There is nothing I can do about that. I only know I can affect tomorrow by the actions I take today. I will do what I think is best for the entire city.”

After three centuries and almost 120 years a solution to the project is still in the works. The information given by the architectural engineer will have a strong bearing on how soon the argument is put to rest.