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Riverfront project has ways to go still

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

It took the Paducah Riverfront Development Authority six months to piece together a retooled Riverfront Development Project, but the city will have to endure several more months worth of hurdles before the project can continue.

The Paducah City Commission got its first look at the reduced project on Tuesday, but the plan has a long way to go before it can reach fruition. A combination of state approvals and a project redesign will have to be done before the riverfront construction even goes out to bid.

"Some people think the work is done, but in a lot of ways it's just started," PRDA director Steve Doolittle said.

The city has secured $10.1 million in grants for riverfront development. Of that, $2.28 million was spent on the Ohio River Boat Launch. The rest was designed to be spent on the extension to Schultz Park and a transient boat dock. The grant money has fallen short of the project's specifications, and the first phase of the Riverfront Development Project landed about $1.8 million over budget, so PRDA took over the task of slimming the project's elements down to fit the budget.

If the city takes PRDA's recommendations and builds the minimized version, it will be looking at spending about $481,000 over and above the grant money. That does not include the required $320,000 in matching funds for grant money.

The new project includes most of the original elements but in smaller or less expensive versions. PRDA took out only three major components: the $685,000 marina services building, the float it sat on, and the sanitary sewer system.

Doolittle and city engineer Rick Murphy will be working on submitting a document to the three agencies that have granted money to the project - the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Highway Administration,and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - to get approval for the changes.

If the agencies approve the changes, the project will then go into a design phase, where all of the cut-down elements will be re-imagined. Once the design is complete, the city will have to go through the Local Public Agency process, or LPA process, which makes sure the project meets federal and state laws.

The most important part of that checklist will be the environmental compliance, Doolittle said. The project was delayed several times and moved initially when endangered mussels were found at the proposed site.

After all of the above is taken care of, the plans will be translated into a bid document. The city will have to allow the public to bid on the project for at least three weeks, and then will have to review and vote on those bids at the City Commission level.

Doolittle said the PRDA board had always hoped to be done with its review by April in order to get the process started. The FHWA's Boating Infrastructure Grant expires in September of 2015, and the city estimates it would have to begin construction by this fall to meet that deadline.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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