Contractors hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started demolishing homes in Martin this week and officials confirm that the low income housing facility in Martin will be rebuilt on Varia Mountain as part of the project.
As of Tuesday, contractors had demolished a home that previously belonged to former Martin City Council Member Eulene Ratliff on Main Street, as well as three homes on Jenny’s Street. A church in that area is also slated to be demolished.
The demolitions mark the beginning of the end of a project that started nearly two decades ago and was initially expected to be finished three years ago.
Brandon Moore, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District, said 66 tracts of properties are left to be acquired.
“What we’re doing is, we are prioritizing those tracts based on the phase of construction,” Moore said. “So, the tracts associated with the early phase of construction will be prioritized first, and then we’ll move on to the other areas in the subsequent phasing of the project.”
He said the Corps is acquiring properties, demolishing them and clearing land that’s needed for the second phase of this project.
“As we’re able to work through our process to acquire properties and give the equitable compensation to those landowners for that acquisition, we will be working to acquire and demolish additional structures in the area,” Moore said.
He said the project is now 74 percent completed.
Construction of the redevelopment site (Phase 2) is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2020, Moore reported, and is expected to be done in 2023, but the entire project will take several more years to complete.
Moore reported that the federal government has spent $66.8 million so far on the Martin redevelopment — about $16.8 more than officials reported had been spent to date in July 2018, when the total was about $50 million.
Last July, the former project manager reported a final completion date of all phases of construction to be 2025. Moore, however, said the final phase is currently expected to be finished in 2027. The project was originally scheduled to be finished in 2016, but officials say funding held up the progress.
All funding has now been appropriated, Moore said. Last year, Congress appropriated $80 million to complete the project.
“Part of the challenge with the time that it’s taken to this point, of course, is the incremental funding that we received,” Moore said. “So, we received portions of the project funding, so we could only make incremental progress, of course, because there’s been gaps in the funding. But now, we’re basically funded, this project is funded to completion, so we’re able to basically, to kind of aggressively pursue the tasks and contract actions and work that we need to perform to make good progress on this project. And we’ve been able to do that over the past couple of years.”
Moore reported all work in project’s first phase is now completed, and he noted that officials are currently reviewing a “punch list” of items for the Renaissance Learning Center, which was ready to open this fall.
The project is geared to alleviate flooding in the city, which has been flooded numerous times.
“Primarily, we are providing a site for potential redevelopment by the citizens and business of the town of Martin, which is located out of the floodway,” Moore said. “So we are providing space that’s elevated out of the floodway ... The main goal is to get them out of the floodway so when future floods occur, there are no damages to the businesses and properties within the area,” Moore said.
He said the Corps is working to expedite the project.
“The Corps is working to partner with Floyd County as the project sponsor and town of Martin as the main stakeholder to reduce flood impacts in the area,” Moore said. “And we’re working hard to expedite the project as much as possible.”
Years ago, workers removed about one million cubic yards of spoil from what’s now known as Varia Mountain, where the city hall, fire department and the new Renaissance Learning Center was located. That spoil was moved to Mayo Hollow, where it now spans about 17.5 acres. The spoil will be excavated as part of the project and used — after all structures in Martin’s downtown area are demolished — to fill in the low-lying areas of Martin above the flood stage.
Last year, Corps officials reported that the low-lying areas of the town would be built up to the height of the Martin Housing Authority’s low-income housing facility and senior citizens center, which are elevated on a hillside above the downtown area.
In June, however, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District proposed the acquisition of the low income housing unit from the Martin Housing Authority and the reconstruction of that facility on Varia Mountain.
Moore said that plan has now been adopted.
“We intend to proceed with that,” he said.
He said the Corps is currently seeking bids for that part of the project.
“We basically are in the process of soliciting and potentially awarding the contract for the construction and relocation of the low income housing site to the Phase 1 development site,” Moore said. “So, our plan right now is to place that adjacent to the alternative school ... The plan is to construct a new one and place it in that location.”
The cost of that part of the project is not yet determined, he said, because the bid process is still underway. He said the acquisition of the facility will not take place until the new facility is built on Varia Mountain.
In addition to the demolitions undertaken this week, the Corps is also working with a contractor to build an emergency access road from Varia Mountain to Ice Plant Hollow. In June 2018, the Corps granted the $1.6 million contract to Eclipse Companies of Ohio for the construction of the road.
City street signs have been removed in the area where homes are set to be torn down.