Exposed bricks under a portion of Market Street (copy)

A contractor recently heated and removed the asphalt from a portion of Market Street near the railroad tracks to uncover the bricks underneath. The Athens City Council on Monday authorized the Public Works Department to expose more of the historic brick on the street. [MARIAN ACCARDI/THE DECATUR DAILY]

ATHENS — The city’s Public Works Department will try to remove the existing asphalt from a portion of Market Street to expose the decades-old brick underneath.

The City Council, in a 4-1 vote Monday night, authorized the department to work on exposing the brick on Market between the CSX mainline railroad tracks and the crosswalk on Market at Marion Street.

“We are going to try our best to do (the work) in-house,” said Public Works Director James Rich. He said an option is for the city to buy a piece of equipment that would remove the asphalt and re-use it, mixed with fresh asphalt, for pothole repair. The equipment would cost about $17,000, he said.

“It’s unexplored territory,” Rich said of the project, estimating that the work could take about two weeks once started if the asphalt is not bonded to the bricks.

Councilman Joseph Cannon, who cast a yes vote, said he wanted to make sure that the work would stop if the project turned into “a money pit.”

Mayor Ronnie Marks said after the vote that he would come back to the council if there are unforeseen problems with the effort.

Councilman Frank Travis voted against the resolution authorizing the project, questioning the aesthetic benefit of leaving a single street unpaved.

Last month, the council authorized Marks to issue a task order to Reed Contracting to resurface other downtown streets: Hobbs Street from Jefferson Street to Madison Street; Jefferson from Hobbs to Washington Street; Washington from Jefferson to the railroad tracks; Marion Street from Green Street to Market Street; and Market from Jefferson to Marion.

The cost of that work is expected to be about $300,000.

Athens resident Kelly Range asked the council before its vote to reject the resolution authorizing the asphalt removal.

“Let’s not get into a science fair,” he said, referring to the uncertainty over the results of the project. “There’s a lot of things you can do with that money.”

Scott Marshall, an Athens resident and business owner, had appealed to city leaders to restore the brick on some downtown streets to preserve some of the city’s history. He brought in a Tuscaloosa-based company last month to heat and remove the asphalt from a section of Market Street about 20 feet long to check out the condition of the bricks underneath.

In other business Monday night, the council voted to authorize a change in the city’s downtown parking plan to add four handicap parking spaces. Those will be at the southwest corner of Marion and Washington streets, the northwest corner of Marion and Market streets by Limestone Drug, and two spaces on the west side of Jefferson Street near U.G. White Mercantile. or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.
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