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Council OKs start of Ewing-Fairfield plan

Each will run 2-way; roundabout will link them with Superior

– The Ewing-Fairfield conversion project, which will change Ewing Street and Fairfield Avenue into two-way streets and create a roundabout where they meet at Superior Street, is moving forward.

City Council members this week approved a $2.8 million contract with Brooks Construction for the first phase of the project, which will build the roundabout, reconfigure the Wells Street Bridge and put Main Street on a lane diet.

The project had been set to start earlier this year but was delayed when the Board of Public Works rejected all bids for the work. Only two bids came in, and both were significantly higher than expected, so staff members broke the project into phases and rebid.

A second phase will include work on Ewing and Fairfield streets, which are now mostly three-lane streets with sidewalks right at the curbs. When construction is complete, each will be a two-way street with one lane in each direction, plus a center left-turn lane, plus bike lanes. Sidewalks will be moved away from the street; the streets will be lined with decorative streetlights and trees. There will also be work on Barr Street.

In this first phase, in addition to the five-leg roundabout, the Wells Street bridge will change from three lanes in each direction to two lanes, with a barrier-separated bike and pedestrian lane on each side.

Main Street will be milled and resurfaced from Jackson Street to Maiden Lane and go from four lanes to three: one lane in each direction with a center turn lane.

In December 2012, the City Council approved using $3 million in Legacy Fund money toward the project, which comes from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility. Officials said money from a special taxing district in the area will also help pay for it.

Council members also voted to approve a $555,075 contract with Butler, Fairman & Seufert for engineering work to widen Maysville Road between Stellhorn Road and Meijer Drive. That cost, as well as the estimated $5.5 million construction cost, will be paid for by the Tax Increment Financing district – taxes paid by new development within the district.

The council also approved proposals to buy and sell property: A 1.1-acre parcel next to the new Kelley Chevrolet near Costco was sold for $40,000, and three other parcels were purchased. Officials said the land sold will be used by Kelley to display vehicles and is not usable for any other purpose.

Among the land purchased was 13.3 acres at 707 Coliseum Blvd. N., a former driving range. The land abuts the sewage treatment plant’s ponds on the north side of the river, and officials said it can be used to provide better access to the area and for construction staging for upcoming work on Pond 3, and it could possibly be used to trade for land needed for the upcoming deep tunnel project.

Council members also voted to buy homes at 520 Wagner St. and 804 Pemberton Drive. The $41,000 Wagner Street purchase is part of the city’s long-term plan to clear the north side of the Three Rivers Filtration Plant. Whenever houses on the south side of Wagner become available, the city buys them for demolition; officials have bought 15 of the 29.

The $60,500 Pemberton purchase will give city workers better access to the Rivergreenway, a stormwater pumping station and outfall that is nearby, and the new wet weather pumping station. The wet weather pumping station pumps raw sewage across the river for storage during heavy rain so it can be treated later, after the sewage plant is back below capacity.

Unlike the other property transactions, however, the Pemberton house was a close vote after Russ Jehl, R-2nd, asked whether officials had spoken to neighborhood officials and complained that property bought at Parnell Avenue and St. Joe River Drive had become an eyesore.

“I can’t imagine buying property and demolishing it and not talking to the neighborhood about it,” Jehl said. That purchase was approved 5-3, with Tom Didier, R-3rd, and John Shoaff, D-at large, joining Jehl in voting no. Glynn Hines, D-6th, was absent.