Plans to repave part of Groveport’s Main Street are having a bumpy ride after a citizens’ group gathered petitions opposing paving over the brick crosswalks.
At a special meeting July 5, Groveport Village Council approved, by a 4-2 vote, an ordinance authorizing the village administrator to enter into an agreement with the Franklin County Engineer’s Office to attach to the county’s bid to repave Main Street from College Street west to State Route 317.
However, because the county’s bidding process is slated to begin July 8, some members of council sought to approve the legislation as an emergency so it would take effect immediately in time for the bidding. But, the 4-2 vote came up one vote short of the necessary five votes needed for emergency action, which means the legislation will not take effect for 30 days.
The fate of the project remains uncertain. Village officials contacted Franklin County to see if it is still possible to attach to the county’s projects bid even though the village cannot meet the county’s July 8 deadline to do so. The village was informed by the county the project will remain as an alternate bid. However, there is no commitment from the county, or on the village’s part, as to whether the paving will be done this year, but it is still possible the paving could be done after the legislation goes into effect in 30 days, or even next year, or maybe not at all.
Council members Jean Ann Hilbert, Donna Drury, Ed Dildine, and Jan Stoots voted to enact the emergency legislation and Ed Rarey and Shawn Cleary opposed it.
The village is seeking to use funds potentially available from county license plate fee funds for the proposed repaving project. The cost to repave this section of Main Street is estimated at $168,000, according to Village Administrator Steve Morris.
The brick crosswalks on Main Street in this area were expected to be paved over as part of the project. Morris told council on June 21 that the brick crosswalks are in "extreme need of repair."
The brick crosswalks were installed in 1992, but have held up poorly to weather, traffic, and snowplow wear and tear. The cost to fix the crosswalks alone could cost up to $250,000. Morris said the village could consider installing more affordable imitation bricks at the crosswalks at a future date.
Dildine, who is a member of the Madison Township Fire Department, noted the crosswalks are so rough that when the department’s ambulance travels over them the bouncing is uncomfortable for patients being transported.
Citizens petition to keep crosswalks
At the July 5 council meeting, about two dozen members of the Groveport Heritage and Preservation Society (GHPS) presented petitions containing more than 500 signatures in opposition to paving over the brick crosswalks. About two dozen members of the GHPS attended the meeting with several speaking and, while not against paving the street, they are opposed to paving over the crosswalks.
GHPS member Dave Gale maintained not all of the brick crosswalks are in poor shape and that a schedule could be created to fix the crosswalks as needed.
"It’s a step backwards to remove them (brick crosswalks)," said Gale. "Remember the original Main Street project was more than the brick crosswalks – it was brick curbs, lights, paving, and more. Pulling out the crosswalks would be like taking the red out of a Rembrandt painting."
"Things of value require care," said GHPS member Carla Cramer, adding in reference to the county funds, "A free deal isn’t always better."
Public Works Superintendent Dennis Moore said, "I don’t want to see them go either," but adding it’s a costly job to fix them.
He said it’s not the bricks that are breaking down, but the concrete "trough" they sit in, which is subject to weakening due to freezing and thawing. He said his workers have patched and tried the maintain the brick crosswalks over the years. He said the fix the crosswalks’ deterioration would require a complete reconstruction of them, which he said would be expensive.
Moore said there are about 16 imitation brick options the village could consider using in the future to replace the current brick crosswalks sometime in the future. He said these options would have to be studied to see which would be the most durable.
The GHPS is skeptical that the village government would ever replace them once the brick crosswalks were removed.
"It’s a matter of aesthetics," said Rarey, who opposes paving over the crosswalks. "They’re unique and make us different from other communities. Actions like removing the brick crosswalks chip away at our town’s image and we’re losing a lot of our values as a small community."
Rarey added the brick crosswalks also serve as a form of speed control for traffic on the heavily traveled street.
Dildine said he understands citizens’ skepticism about government, but told the GHPS members present, "You’re not giving us (council) any credit or benefit of the doubt. Give us an opportunity to look at new (imitation brick) materials and the opportunity to prove you wrong."
Dildine added repaving Main Street would be for the benefit of the whole community and fiscally responsible to use county funds. He suggested GHPS members come to the village’s budget meetings in the fall and provide input on the prioritization of capital projects.
Hilbert added, "We’re trying to do what we can to make the community better and safer. We either use the county funds or not. If not, then Public Works will just keep repairing them (crosswalks)."
In an interview following the meeting, Cleary said he voted against the legislation because he felt the process was going too fast. He said the county’s short deadline did not give council time to properly plan. He thinks a committee of government and citizen representatives should be formed to review the brick crosswalk situation.
"The street and crosswalks can last another year," said Cleary. "We should put a committee in place to study the feasibility of the synthetic brick options, the brick crosswalks, or other potential surfaces."