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Council delays vote on repairs to downtown decks

2/16/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Questions regarding cost estimates for repairs to the parking decks alongside Front Street led Cuyahoga Falls City Council to temporarily halt the project, but the decision to do so was not unanimous.

At the Feb. 13 regular meeting, Council considered legislation that would OK a contract for design and construction work for the downtown city-owned parking garages, known as the “blue” parking deck, the “red” parking deck and the “green” parking deck.

Councilman Jeff Iula (R-at large), who chairs the Public Improvements Committee, made a motion to send the proposed ordinance back to committee for further discussion after receiving some cost estimates from city administration.

“This is catching me by surprise,” said Councilman Paul Colavecchio (D-at large).

Councilman Russ Iona (R-Ward 8), who agreed with sending the legislation back to committee, explained there are some questions on the cost of the project.

Iona said clarification is needed regarding what the city is going to have to pay for opening Front Street to vehicle traffic and the parking decks. He said he thought Front Street was going to be a $10 million to $11 million project, with the work on the parking decks included in that figure. Iona said, however, it appears more than $3 million also is needed for the parking decks.

Finance Director Bryan Hoffman said reopening Front Street to two-way vehicular traffic — closing the downtown pedestrian mall — is a separate project from the downtown parking deck work. However, he said the city administration has always talked about the completion of both coming in around $13 million. He added the city’s figures are based on engineering estimates, which he believes may be high for the deck work.

“We plan for those bids to come in lower,” he explained to Council.

Council President Mary Ellen Pyke (R-Ward 2) also said she felt the matter needed to go back to the committee.

“My concern is just time,” Colavecchio said.

He then asked Mayor Don Walters for the project’s timeline. Walters had City Engineer Tony Demasi share the information with Council.

Demasi told Council design work for the decks was to begin Feb. 14 and the project was to go out for bid the middle of April. Delaying the vote two weeks ultimately would delay the project two weeks, he explained.

Demasi said the schedule already is “compressed on this project.”

“We want the decks complete and the road opened up by the end of this year,” he said.

A discussion ensued about whether it was appropriate to consider discussing the proposed legislation during the meeting or at the next committee meeting.

“Committee meeting discussion is needed,” Pyke said.

Colavecchio argued the discussion should continue during the meeting so the legislation could be voted on.

Even if the two projects combined were to cost the city a “few million more” than anticipated, Colavecchio said Council needed to proceed with the vote and keep to the timeline.

Councilwoman Carol Klinger (R-at large) recommended taking the legislation back to committee with a commitment to vote on the matter immediately following committee deliberation, setting the project back only one week.

Ultimately, Council voted 6-5 to send it back for committee discussion with Colavecchio, Councilman Jerry James (D-Ward 7), Councilwoman Mary Nichols-Rhodes (D-Ward 4), Councilman Vince Rubino (D-Ward 1) and Councilman Michael Brillhart (D-Ward 5) voting against it.

Also at the meeting, Council approved designating a downtown historic overlay district to preserve the historic character of the area.

Council additionally authorized contracts for the replacement of a water line on Highland Avenue, from Bailey Road to Victoria Street, and for an improvement project for the Woodward Creek culvert under Sandalwood Lane.

Council also authorized a community reinvestment area tax exemption agreement — a 75 percent tax exemption for 10 years — with State Route 8 Motorcycles for an approximately $2.5 million expansion project at 95 Cuyahoga Falls Industrial Parkway.

In other meeting news, Council introduced the following pieces of legislation:

  • an ordinance authorizing the Parks and Recreation Board to enter into a contract to replace the roof at the Quirk Cultural Center;
  • an ordinance authorizing the Parks and Recreation Board to enter into a contract for the replacement of the restroom building in Water Works Park;
  • an ordinance authorizing a waiver of water and sewer tap-in fees for the Woodridge Local School District; and
  • legislation creating a tax increment financing incentive district, declaring improvements to the parcels within the incentive district to be a public purpose and exempt from real property taxation, requiring the owners of those parcels to make service payments in lieu of taxes, with a public hearing on the matter to be held March 20 at 6:30 p.m. at The Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St.

Council will hold committee meetings Feb. 21, a day later than usual due to Presidents’ Day, and a regular meeting Feb. 27, both at 6:30 p.m. at The Natatorium.

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