EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two in a two-part series on the Monday, Dec. 21, Covington council meeting.
COVINGTON — Covington council received an update Monday evening on their Safe Routes to School project, which will put in sidewalks leading up to the new PK-8 school building. During their update, Brice Schmitmeyer, president of Access Engineering, informed the council of an approximate cost of $50,000 that they were not expecting to have to pay due to previously unknown federal regulations.
“They’re saying that due to ADA requirements, we have to do ramps from across the street in order to meet the federal requirements that they’re bound to,” Schmitmeyer said about representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) with whom they are working. Schmitmeyer and Village Administrator Mike Busse explained that ODOT had not made them aware of those federal requirements before starting the project and that it was only recently brought to the village’s attention.
The village will need to acquire approximately 11 other right-of-way acquisitions in order to put in those ramps, and the additional cost will be for those acquisitions services, purchases, and engineering services. The village received a grant from ODOT for $240,000 for the construction of the project.
Even though the village is not planning on putting in sidewalks on some of the streets across from the ones that will be receiving sidewalks, the village learned that they are still required to put ramps on all of the curbs at the intersections where they will be doing work. Those ramps will prepare the entire intersection should other streets receive sidewalks sometime in the future.
“It’s $50,000 above what we had planned for,” Busse said.
The village has currently paid approximately $53,865 and has committed to paying approximately $40,000 in 2016 for work and right-of-way acquisition services for which the village has already signed contracts.
For background, Mayor Ed McCord explained that when ODOT first approached the Chief of Police and Covington Board of Education member Lee Harmon about the project, it was supposed to be 100 percent funded by ODOT. The project then went to 80 percent funded by ODOT and 20 percent funded by local funds when the village signed agreements.
“There was no mentions of acquisitions,” McCord said. “Every time we turn around, it’s been something else and something else. I think the question for the council is, do you want to invest additional (funds)?”
Schmitmeyer stated that, with the proposed editions, it will be approximately 60 percent funded by ODOT and 40 percent funded locally.
“It’s an excellent project,” McCord said. “All these rules have continually changed on us.”
“Do you want to spend another $50,000 to get the project done?” Schmitmeyer said.
“When do we have to decide?” council member Bob Weer asked.
“If we don’t continue to move forward on the project … it’ll get pushed into the next budget year (in 2017),” Busse said. “We’re kind of right on the edge of getting it done in 2016.”
“We’re paying now for things that should have been done in the past,” council member Keith Warner said, questioning how streets were created in the past without sidewalks. “It’s going to cost money more later on … You got to keep the kids safe.”
“I think we’re in too far now,” council member Scott Tobias said.
All of the council members present at the meeting agreed that they did not like the additional costs, but the village had invested too much in the project already to back out at this point.
“Finish the project,” council member Joyce Robertson said.
“I don’t like it either, but, yes, finish the project,” council member Lois Newman said.
The council is expected to have vote on resolution concerning this issue at their next meeting on Jan. 4.
Also during the the meeting, the council approved the following:
• A replat of the Dale Sink properties
• Temporary appropriations for current expenses and other expenditures for the village during fiscal year 2016
• Setting a public meeting for Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. to review a zoning map amendment for the newly annexed school, Smith, and Sink properties
• Accepting the resignation of Zack Smith as a part-time police officer effective immediately
• Accepting the resignation of Rick Stephan as a part-time maintenance worker effective Dec. 25
• Accepting the resignation of Jim Hutchinsen as a part-time maintenance worker effective Dec. 25
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall