City officials hope a plan to give the north end of Sixth Avenue in Decatur the feel of a boulevard rather than a highway will benefit from an $800,000 state grant. 

The Decatur City Council this week approved the filing of an application for a grant for sidewalk and crosswalk improvements from Lee Street to the U.S. 31 bridge. The grant would also pay for conduits needed for moving utilities underground.

The grant application comes as consultant Volkert Inc. is wrapping up public input into a streetscape plan that covers Sixth Avenue, from the bridge to Prospect Drive Southeast at Delano Park.

The plan under development by the Mobile consultant is funded by a $100,000 grant, with the state paying 80% of the cost. The Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority is paying 10% of the expense, with the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and the city each paying for 5% of the project.

A product of the One Decatur comprehensive plan, the main focus of the Volkert proposal is to beautify the 1.3-mile section of Sixth Avenue and give it the feel of a Main Street-like boulevard.

The proposal includes the creation of a landscaped median through what is now the center turn lane, with set left-turn locations along the route. The median would be similar to the one on Lee Street Northeast at the Sixth Avenue intersection, according to Volkert.

A new gateway sign and wayfaring signs would be added to direct people to key locations downtown.

Chamber spokesman Grant Thompson said about 100 people have responded to the Volkert survey so far, with input scheduled to end Friday. Input can be given at the chamber website,

Allen Stover, city Community Development supervisor, said the $800,000 grant requires a 20% match of $160,000 and a maximum of $80,000 for preliminary engineering and design.

Stover said the city doesn’t have the money budgeted for the grant match, and some council members were concerned the city might not have the money because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the budget.

However, Stover said the grant likely won’t be awarded until near the end of fiscal 2020 and the city has two years to accept and use the grant funding.

Councilman Chuck Ard pointed out that the city could apply to the grant match or pre-engineering the $100,000 it regularly budgets to crosswalk improvements to make them more handicapped accessible

Councilman Billy Jackson said it doesn’t hurt to apply now because there’s no front-end commitment from the city.

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