WALKER — The City Council, meeting in a special session on April 29, unanimously adopted two resolutions authorizing Walker to enter into agreements with state and federal agencies for funding that will clear the way for long-awaited improvements to Pendarvis Lane.

Chief of Staff Jamie Etheridge said the two resolutions authorize the funding of phases I and II of the improvement project, which calls for the eventual resurfacing of the roadway, subsurface drainage installation and the construction of sidewalks. The state, through the Department of Transportation and Development and the Capital Regional Planning Commission, will provide 80% of the funding for the project. The city will contribute the additional 20% of the costs to complete the improvements.

Bids for Phase I will be opened sometimes later this year or early next year. Bids for Phase II will be accepted sometime during fiscal year 2020-21. Etheridge said the cost of Phase I will be approximately $1.678 million and Phase II costs are about $1.139 million. The final Phase III has an estimated cost of about $1.7 million. No timetable for completion of the entire project has been set.

In a related matter, Preston Brown, of Forte and Tablada, the city’s engineering consultants, told the council that bids for installation of the Travis St. Bridge will be requested May 29 and that once the bids have been opened and accepted, a contract for the work will be awarded. He said that bridge improvements on Elm Street will begin after a review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is complete.

Brown said the installation of culverts that form the Keith Street Bridge is awaiting approval from the Canadian National Railroad. He said that while the Keith Street work is not on railroad property, it requires approval from the railroad because its location could possibly impact operations of the rail line.

“This bridge is in the railroad’s general area and, therefore, requires their approval,” he said.

Turning to another city project, Brown said equipment for a new lighting system on two baseball fields at Sydney Hutchinson Park has been obtained and that installation of underground wiring for the lights will start in the next two weeks. He said the contractor retained for the installation of the lights should complete the job in a few days once the wiring has been completed. Mayor Jimmy Watson reminded the council that the youth baseball season began the first weekend in May.

In other business, the council approved a resolution that provides for increased annual and sick leave for employees. Etheridge said that the more liberal leave policy will assist the city in hiring and retaining employees. Employees with two years or less of employment will now earn 80 hours of annual and sick leave per year. Under the old plan, those employees earned only 40 hours of annual and sick leave.

The amount of leave time accrued by employees grows with years of employment. For example, employees with 3-4 years of service will earn 120 hours of annual and sick leave per year. The maximum leave time that an employee can earn is 240 hours of sick and annual leave for employees with 30 or more years of employment. The resolution also specifies how many hours that an employee can carry over to the following year. Employees with two or fewer years of employment can carry over 40 hours to the next year. The maximum that can carried over is 140 hours per year for those employees with 30 or more years of service.

The new leave regulations spell out how much accrued leave time can be reimbursed if an employee decides to terminate their employment or retire. The new rules guiding the use of annual and sick leave are detailed in the newly amended City of Walker Employee Handbook.

In asking for the council’s approval of the new leave policies, Watson said the changes are "an incentive to get good employees and to keep them. Many of our employees take home less pay than they might make at other jobs so this helps to encourage them to go to work for the city and to stay once they are employed.”