Council eyes infrastructure
- Published: August 16, 2018
Fixing sidewalks. Studying electric and stormwater systems. Buying a camera to inspect underground pipes. Repairing a wall of John Bryan Community Pottery. Installing remote-read water meters.
These actions were identified as a few of the Village of Yellow Springs’ most needed improvements during a July 30 Council work session on infrastrucutre. The topic was discussion-only.
Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns said that although many new investments are required, the Village has made significant progress in updating its infrastruture.
“It’s a lot,” Burns said of the needs. “But we’ve come leaps in bounds in the last few years.”
The Village owns and maintains its own electric, water and wastewater systems as well as the streets, sidewalks, bike paths, parks, pool, Bryan Center, pottery shop, library, train station, the Sutton Farm maintenance headquarters and other properties.
According to Village Council President Brian Housh in a later interview, the work session was prompted by the need to prioritize infrastructure investments, which have historicallly lagged. It’s a problem nationwide, he added.
“Like every municipality everywhere, we are reminded of the errors in the past of delaying infrastructure improvements,” Housh said.
Housh added the Village is trying to more proactively invest in infrastructure. While many infrastructure needs are serious, the Village is getting a handle on them, he said.
A PowerPoint presentation prepared by Burns and his staff detailed the infrastructure needs, which ranged from $500 for a new LED light outside the pottery shop to $818,000 for remote-read water meters, and covered a period of several years.
During the meeting, sidewalks emerged as a significant area of discussion in light of continued concerns and a recent proposal from Precision Concrete Cutting to fix some hazardous areas in town.
Precision Concrete Cutting recently identified 1,308 trip hazards on sidewalks through town that it would fix by grinding down the concrete for slightly more than $100,000. The company also identified an additional 81 areas where the hazard was higher than two inches and the sidewalk would have to be replaced at an unknown cost.
Burns suggested a four-year process of gradually fixing all problematic sidewalks, after which the Village could return the responsibility of sidewalk maintenance back to property owners.
“If we attack this with grinding them and fix the main spots over the next four years, then I think the Village would turn around and give it back to the citizens,” he said.
Council member Judith Hempfling was hesitant about that proposal, stating her belief that the Village should maintain all sidewalks throughout town as the most equitable arrangement with homeowners.
Also during the discussion, Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen said she agrees that the Village should make sidewalk investments, but that they should be part of a Village campaign to encourage property owners to clear off vegetation and other impediments from the sidewalks in front of their properties.
Council will consider the sidewalk proposal at its Aug. 20 meeting.
Another major investment need looming is the addition of a third electric circuit due to growing demand for electricity in some areas of town, according to Burns.
The demand expected from Cresco Labs, DMS Ink and the new fire station on Xenia Avenue, along with anticipated new development at the Center for Business and Education will likely necessitate the increase in capacity that the new circuit would provide, Burns explained.
Hempfling responded by urging the Village to consider ways that future development might pay for the improvements, rather than exisiting homeowners and businesses.
“If it’s for future development — and, of course, the future development is supposed to increase our tax base — is there a way to finance it so that the burden isn’t on our current citizens?” she asked.
A new circuit could cost in the range of $700,000 to $1 million, but the Village should first complete an electric study, which will likely cost between $150,000 and $200,000, Burns said. That study would also explore other potential problems, including the viability of the 1,900 electric poles in town and the municipality’s transformers, along with other electric infrastructure.
Pivoting to underground infrastructure and water management, Burns said the need to assess and repair pipes long neglected is clear.
“Everything above ground looks pretty good, except we need some improvements,” Burns said. “Everything below ground, we need some major work.”
Burns went on to identify broken, misaligned sewer and storm lines in the village as well as inadequate stormwater management that causes flooding throughout town during high rain events.
The last study on stormwater management was completed in 1991, according to Burns, and it is unclear if any actions were taken following that report. It’s time for a new study, he said. Council members supported the idea of a study, with Hempfling urging a comprehensive approach.
“We don’t want to make decisions based upon neighborhood complaints,” she said.
Burns also suggested that a camera be purchased to determine where the problems are in Village lines. Council member Lisa Kreeger said the new camera, along with a GIS system for the staff to better monitor underground infrastrucuture, were among the high priority needs she saw.
“I feel like these should be priorities that we should move on quickly,” she said.
Burns also highlighted plans for remote-read water meters to be installed throughout the village, pending approval of a grant. Burns said the water meters, which will be updated in real time, will allow homeowners and the Village utility office to monitor for leaks, which could save utility customers money.
“If I had to rank everything in the village, this would be my number one priority,” he said. “People don’t know how much a leaky toilet will cost them.”
Other infrastructure needs discussed included fixing a failing wall at the pottery shop for which an estimate was not available, the possible building of a new restroom facility on Short Street, new LED street lighting throughout town and improvements at Ellis Park, among others.
Council scheduled the infrastructure work session ahead of the 2019 budgetting process so it could prioritize capital improvements, according to Housh in an interview.
“We wanted to get a better perspective what the needs with utilities were for the future so we could plan better,” Housh said.
In other Council business:
• Council voted unanimously to forgive tap and zoning fees for six affordable units of a housing development on Xenia Ave. The total cost to the Village is estimated at $9,600, or $1,600 per unit, using current material costs, according to Village Manager Patti Bates.
Home, Inc. applied for the fees to be waived at its newest pocket neighborhood development, Glen Cottages, a mix of 14 permanently afffordable single-family homes and duplex garden cottages on 1.3 acres at 1113 Xenia Ave., according to its incentive application to the Village. The tap fees for the eight other units in the development were previously forgiven by the Village.
The Village gave Home, Inc.’s request a score of three out of four using its new incentive policy rating sheet, which indicates it “met most requirements.” It was the first time the Village used the new rating sheet, according to Bates, who completed the worksheet.
Waiving the fees will reduce project costs to increase the affordability of the units, according to Home, Inc.’s application. In addition, the Village financial support will make Home, Inc.’s grant applications for the project more competitive.
In response to a question from Council, Burns explained that although some of the $9,600 covers staff time for installation and inspection, about $3,500 is for materials. Village Planning Administrator Denise Swinger estimated zoning fees of several hundred dollars.
• Brown water events will continue as the Village flushes pipes throughout town as part of a system-wide cleaning, according to Bates at the meeting. Although the new water plant is online, “now we have to clean out the system,” Bates said.
“The system has never been cleaned this way before,” she added.
Bates said that the process should be looked at as a transition that will result in a much better outcome.
“It’s going to be a very painful transition — I’m not going to sugarcoat that in any way,” Bates said. “But after the transition is over, we will be better off.”
• Council’s next meeting is Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.