Hopkinsville city officials have said city projects, such as the Rail Trail extension, are scheduled to continue despite concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction companies in charge of the projects are encouraged to work on them while following the orders set by Gov. Andy Beshear.

Mayor Wendell Lynch shared that the only city project that is currently in progress is the Rail Trail extension and bridge. Construction is continuing at this point as it falls under the exceptions Beshear listed in his guidelines.

“That project is slated to continue,” Lynch said. “Government projects and contractors doing government projects (can continue), and this project falls within those exceptions. So that project is not slated to discontinue (due to the pandemic) and we have no plans to stand down on that project.”

Lynch added that at this time, piers for the bridge of the Rail Trail are being put in the ground, but work on the trail itself is not currently happening.

Lynch said the city is encouraging construction workers and companies to adhere to social distancing guidelines set to ensure they are being safe and sanitary while working.

“We insist that the contractors follow all of the guidance that has been put out as far as distancing, hygiene, anything they can do to protect their employees, such as taking temperatures, providing sanitizer and other things they can use and keep their distance,” Lynch said.

“We insist upon that and that is part of the requirement. And, in addition to that, making sure they don’t congregate more people in close proximity than the guidance permits.”

Lynch said there shouldn’t be any social distancing issues with the Rail Trail construction.

“Fortunately, on the project where we’re at now putting in the footers for the piers, it doesn’t require many people to do so,” Lynch said. “It’s more of equipment operating, digging holes and then of course concrete trucks coming in and pouring concrete.”

While the Rail Trail extension is the only city project currently in construction, Hopkinsville City Council recently approved the West Eighth Street Better Block project. However, according to officials, it is still in the design phase, without a timeline for construction.

Community Development Services Director Steve Bourne and Lynch said hopefully the pandemic will be on its way out before construction begins. If the pandemic is ongoing at that time, Bourne said the project would likely continue despite that.

“We’re going to continue and, in the process of continuing, making sure we are in compliance with the governor’s mandates,” Bourne said.

“I think that’s the key in my mind. If the governor’s mandates start rolling off our business, then we’ll start looking at our projects a little bit more towards the implementation process. But, right now, other than the greenway, a lot of the projects are still in the design or bidding phase. We will undertake all those projects with respect to being in compliance with the governor’s mandates.”

According to New Era archives, Downtown Renaissance Director Holly Boggess presented the idea for the West Eighth Street Better Block project to the Committee of the Whole several months ago.

West Eighth between South Main and Bethel streets will be closed to vehicular traffic to create a plaza and green space for pedestrians.

“We’d like to incorporate some street lighting, a plaza area, installation of concrete pavers or stamped concrete and additional landscaping and get rid of the overhead utilities,” Boggess previously explained to the committee.

“It would become a place for outdoor seating for the adjoining businesses, events or a welcoming area that leads you from the municipal center all the way to Little River Park.”

CDS estimates the project will cost between $75,000 to $80,000; however, Boggess said the Local Development Corporation has allocated $32,000 for the project as well as another $10,000 LDC received through the Local Foods, Local Places grant.

Boggess also previously explained that $40,000 is leftover from the local Kentucky Probation and Parole conversion of the Williams Chevrolet building.

On Tuesday, the council voted to approve the project.

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