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Sylva asks DOT to help with Allen Street

Cracks and earth movement on and around Allen Street have caused a 150-foot portion of the road to remain closed for more than a year. Donated photo Cracks and earth movement on and around Allen Street have caused a 150-foot portion of the road to remain closed for more than a year. Donated photo

Facing an estimated price tag of $1.5 million to fix persistent landslide issues on Allen Street, the Town of Sylva is asking the State to take on half the cost. 

During a June 10 board meeting , town commissioners unanimously approved a resolution requesting $750,000 from the DOT’s contingency fund. The resolution requests $250,000 apiece from the N.C. House, N.C. Senate and N.C. Secretary of Transportation contingency funds. Each office controls a pot of money they can appropriate upon request for emergency projects. 

The Town of Sylva has been facing an expensive remedy for town-owned Allen Street since spring 2020 , when minor cracks on the portion of road uphill from Bryson Park turned into major vertical displacement, causing both the park and a 150-foot portion of the road to remain closed ever since. Later that year, two more areas of tension cracking appeared, both immediately downhill from properties on Bobwhite Lane. 

Landslide issues are also impeding traffic flow on Chipper Curve Road, a state road located downhill from Allen Street. The town gets a state allocation each year to help with its road maintenance costs, but because Allen Street repairs would take place partially along state-owned Chipper Curve Road, the town can’t use that money for the project, according to the resolution. Therefore, it’s asking for help from the state. 

The unknowns surrounding the Allen Street landslide have lurked in the background of every budget planning session this year. While the $1.5 million estimate is new, board members have long known the cost would be significant,  likely well over $1 million. Even if it receives the requested funding, Sylva will still have a hefty bill to pay — the resolution specifies that the town would be responsible for the remaining $750,000. 

The town has already appropriated $426,000 into its capital project ordinance for the undertaking, said Town Manager Paige Dowling, but it would still need to find another $324,000. That money could come from the Fisher Creek Fund  or from fund balance — Dowling recommended that commissioners draw it from fund balance. If they did so, the balance would remain above 70% of the amount needed to run the town for a year, she said, a key marker when planning fund balance withdrawals. 

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The N.C. Department of Transportation Board of Transportation will review the request for funds from the Secretary of Transportation during its July 1 meeting, and the secretary would have to approve the decision. The Senate Pro Tem and Speaker of the House must approve the $250,000 requested from their respective funds. 

As soon as the funding gets worked out, the town will be ready to move forward with the project, hoping to begin construction in late summer. Instead of going through the formal bid process, the town is proceeding under an emergency exemption  that allows governments to skip the competitive bidding process in case of a “present, immediate, and existing special emergency involving public health and safety of people or property.”

Sylva has selected Greenville, South Carolina-based Wurster Engineering and Construction, Inc.,  to do the work, and the town is currently in preconstruction negotiations with the company. The contract was still under discussion as of press time, and an exact dollar amount had not been set. 

“They have experience with slope failures and the time to make Allen Street a priority,” Dowling said. 

The company is currently working on a different project at Western Carolina University, which sets it up nicely to get going on the nearby Allen Street site. 

“From a mobilization standpoint, which is a pretty big deal with these projects, they are ready to move forward,” said Public Works Director Jake Scott. 

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