Bonnie’s Alley project goes from costing Town $200K to over $500K

This is NOT a faith column. It is a blog giving facts and asking questions.

The Town of Farmville sold the former Farmville Hardware building (two parcels) to Don Edwards in 2017 and came up with a plan to improve the remaining third parcel as a town-owned parking lot. The project was started but then several big changes had to be made.

According to the Town Manager, “The original Bonnie’s Alley project as approved in 2018 was a utility project with a scope that included upsizing the existing waterline in Bonnie’s Alley from a 2 inch line to a 6 inch line to accommodate the fire sprinkler system being installed in the old hardware store building as well as other businesses adjacent to the alley and replacing the existing sanitary sewer line in Bonnie’s Alley to allow the sewer line to be lowered to assist in connecting new services to the sewer line.  No paving work (beyond simple asphalt patching) was planned at that time.  The original cost was about $200,000.

The utility projects were completed in fairly short order. However, it became clear during construction that renovation of the old hardware store, renovation of Bonnie’s Café, and the new hardware store would change the grade adjacent to the parking area (necessitating some drainage work) and create more use in the alley way and the need for a better traffic flow (necessitating a rework of the lot layout).  The Town decided to take steps to significantly upgrade the drainage in the area by changing the original grade of the parking lot, improve traffic flow by providing another dedicated ingress / egress point for the parking lot (via use of the driveway off of Walnut Street), and providing a proper paved surface that would hold up to heavy car and truck traffic as is anticipated.  All these improvements drove up the cost of the project but the finished product will be very functional and I’m certain it will be well used.

The original water meters were placed at the wrong elevation by the plumber for the old hardware store and had to be lowered.  The parking lot elevation was lowered to accommodate the new drainage plan as designed and to prevent any potential flooding into adjacent businesses.

Also of note is that the Town received about $40,000 in private donations from property owners that would benefit from the new lot.  This money went to offset a portion of the project cost.”

This Bonnie’s Alley Project was initially going to cost the Town approximately $200K. At the same time, McDavid and Associates would pay $40K to the Town for their adjoining private parking area to be paved. This project total was to be approximately $240K. With the newest changes, the project costs now will be close to $600K, with approximately $520K of that being paid by the Town. McDavid and Associates still will pay their part, dollar in dollar out, for $40K in improvements for their lot. Ten people/organizations who would benefit from the new plan joined to donate $38K to the project. The $520K total the Town will pay includes a $60K “property acquisition” from Todd Edwards. The Town will be buying the Walnut Street driveway or alley from Edwards. Originally there was talk of paying rent. Instead, the Town will purchase this entrance or exit as the fourth access point to or from Bonnie’s Alley.

Taylor and Jones CPAs already owned a separate lot behind their building. This area was absorbed into the new project and reconfigured. They graciously agreed to allow this. The new parking spaces marked “reserved” behind the new hardware store belong to Taylor and Jones, CPAs. There are now 13 newly-paved and painted public parking spaces behind the former Farmville Hardware building.  The original plan I have from the Town, which might have been preliminary and unofficial, showed 22 parking spaces in that lot.

Why did the Town increase its cost to over $500K from $200K for 13 parking spaces? Some of the answers are in the message from the Town Manager, but not all are. Also, we have a one-way entrance to the 13 spaces on Bonnie’s Alley via Wilson Street going towards Belcher. We have a one-way entrance to Bonnie’s Alley via Belcher Street going towards Wilson. Both of these allow a one-way exit onto Wilson Street. Is it a need or a luxury to spend $60K to purchase an additional exit or entrance for the town’s 13 spaces? Vehicles connected to McDavid and Taylor and Jones were used to having just the three entrance/exit points. They did not have a Walnut Street access point. Certainly people parking in the Town’s 13 spaces do not need a Walnut Street entrance or exit. Why would the Town spend $60K of taxpayer money for that fourth access point? Is this the wisest use of money? How will this $520K project be funded? In November 2018, when in desperate need for downtown parking, the Town Board voted to sell the .16 acre Main Street parking lot next to Farmville Furniture for $22.5K. This current Board is willing, 17 months later, to spend $60K for a fourth access point to/from the Bonnie’s Alley parking lot. It seems quite odd.

(As I say repeatedly, our elected officials are accountable to us. They were voted in or appointed in order for them to represent us. When we ask questions about how our taxpayer dollars are spent, we are asking them. Private citizens are free to advocate for any project or plan they wish. There are times when elected officials from any given place pursue private individuals and offer them a proposition. As residents and voters our input must be directed towards those holding office who make the decisions.)


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