Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced Plain City Council to consider cuts to the 2021 budget, officials are still prioritizing improvements to the Uptown district.
The village’s capital improvements committee and personnel and finance committee held a special, joint meeting to discuss spending planned for next year.
Committee members said they wanted to consider all non-discretionary spending, as revenue decreases during the pandemic may push back previously planned capital improvement projects.
“We have caviar expenses we need to take care of and we have Ramen noodle revenue at the moment,” Village Administrator Nathan Cahall said.
Personnel and Finance Committee Chairperson Frank Reed said the “one, big ticket” capital expense item he would like to prioritize revolves around Uptown improvement.
Staff’s proposed 2021 budget includes $75,000 for streetscape improvements in the Uptown. Reed, who also sits on Council, said that is “not what I want as a council person.”
Instead, he said the only project he thought was “fairly manageable” to undertake next year would be sidewalk replacements in the Uptown.
Cahall said staff purposely gave that line item “a nebulous title” so it could be applied to any Uptown improvements, but council has previously indicated they would also like it to fund sidewalk replacements.
He said he has not yet received a final quote for the projects, but believes sidewalks on Main Street could be replaced from N. Chillicothe Street to Maple Street with the amount budgeted.
Cahall said he is also hoping that planned Uptown parking lot improvements will be completed under budget and the surplus can be used toward the sidewalk project.
Village staff would like to bid out the parking lot project in December 2020 or January 2021 – without entering a contract until next year – so they know the cost before other projects are undertaken.
Reed said he felt that was an appropriate plan of action, but asked if the budget would cover simple, concrete sidewalks or if the village could create “herringbone brick” sidewalks similar to those in Dublin.
The current budget plans for just concrete replacement, Cahall responded.
However, he said if council would like to pursue another design for the sidewalks, it is possible that the project could be split over several years. Cahall said selecting a design will be an “investment decision for council.”
Budgeting is not necessarily the trickiest part of the project, Cahall said, compared to coordinating with property owners in the area to complete the project.
In most other areas of the village, Cahall said the sidewalk is completely in the public right-of-way.
Along Main Street, though, he said the private property line “extends anywhere from 8-10 feet from those buildings.”
He said this could create difficulties because the village can only replace sidewalk that is in the public right-of-way.
While doing so, staff will need to ensure the public sidewalk is level with the privately owned walkways, so water doesn’t drain onto their property and trip hazards are avoided.
“There’s a little bit of devil in the details in this project… it requires cooperation because the (property) owners will have to replace their beat-up sidewalk as well,” Cahall explained.
He said there is an ordinance that requires private property owners to replace unsafe sidewalks, or allow the village to complete it and be assessed the cost.
“Is there the political will to do that if it comes to that?” Cahall asked.
Although there are multiple factors to consider, Reed said he felt it was an important enough project to prioritize.
“It’s a big project, but it’s oh so important,” he said.
Reed also asked that Cahall bump the budgeted amount to $100,000 from $75,000.
Cahall said he will increase the amount and leave the number as a “placeholder” in the budget, so council can decide how they would like to proceed with the project.
The 2021 budget will appear before council for a first reading in the coming weeks.
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