Village Council reviews infrastructure, public safety improvements
- Published: January 23, 2024
Although Village Council’s most recent meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, was only an hour and a half — the shortest regular Council meeting in two years — the group covered considerable ground in reviewing recent, ongoing and upcoming improvements to local infrastructure and public safety.
Reporting in from the Yellow Springs Active Transportation Advisory Committee was the group’s chair and professional community planner, Chris Bongorno, who shared with Council some of the strides the committee has made alongside Village staff and workers.
“It’s been a little over a year since we reported to you, and we want to give you an idea of what we’ve been working on, what our priorities are, and how we’re set up to help Council and the Village administration,” Bongorno said.
Among those projects that the advisory committee has facilitated since mid-2022 are the completion of a new sidewalk on Limestone Street, which runs alongside Mills Lawn and connects Xenia Avenue to Dayton Street; improved accessibility and striping on roads and walkways near local school intersections; an update to the School Travel Plan; and, perhaps most significantly, the successful completion of the Dayton Street multimodal pathway that extends from East Enon Road to Stafford Street.
“A lot of credit goes to Council and staff leadership — especially [Interim Village Manager] Johnnie Burns — for moving these projects along,” Bongorno said.
Work on the multimodal pathway — which cost $1.8 million dollars and was entirely funded through an Ohio Department of Transportation grant — began last September. As Burns noted in his manager’s report given at Tuesday’s meeting, that project is ahead of schedule; the construction of the 10-foot wide pathway on Dayton Street was completed last month. However, crews will continue to work on traffic-calming “bump-outs” — which were included in the whole pathway project — at several intersections in the coming weeks.
By creating the new multimodal pathway, the Village was able to meet eight of the top priorities outlined in the 2018-2019 Active Transportation Plan, Bongorno noted.
“In my line of work as an urban planner, we love to show when plans lead to actual implementation, bricks and mortar, that make a difference in people’s lives every day,” he said. “We’re seeing that now on Dayton Street, and [with the bump-outs,] a number of intersections are benefitting.”
The walkway that preceded the multimodal path, Bongorno explained, was not up to current standards. Its six-foot width prohibited safe crossings between pedestrians, cyclists and those in wheelchairs going opposite directions. Now, with the added four feet and more level concrete surface, the path can be more safely shared simultaneously by multiple modes of low-speed transportation.
Council member Trish Gustafson said she was pleased with all the sidewalk improvements the transportation committee and Village workers have made in the last several years.
“Not a lot of people get excited about sidewalks. My family? We get excited about sidewalks,” she said. “With the accessibility and the ease with which people can go downtown, I’ve seen more people in wheelchairs and walkers on sidewalks than ever before.”
Also in his presentation, Bongorno shared some preliminary results of the ongoing traffic study being conducted on Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road, where a temporary bump and speed monitor were installed in November to reduce excessive speeds from traffic entering and exiting the western side of the village.
“At first glance, there was a noticeable and I think significant difference in the before and after,” Bongorno said. “The speed numbers alone make it look like there is an impact in a positive direction in reducing speeds on that stretch.”
Though Bongorno was unable to provide any concrete data on the traffic study, citing the sheer volume of speed-related numbers he and the advisory committee must comb through, he assured Council that more tangible results are forthcoming. Interim Manager Burns added that Choice One Engineering is also reviewing the data.
Looking ahead to the coming year, Bongorno said the Active Transportation Advisory Committee aims to initiate the process of updating the Village’s Active Transportation Plan.
“And that’s something we’re going to want feedback from everybody on,” he said. “Council, different staff and departments throughout the village, the schools — it’s going to be an ‘everybody get involved’ sort of project.”
Continuing down the path of public safety improvements, Burns later said in his manager’s report that Village crews have made much headway over the last several months.
Recently, Burns’ crews installed flashing crosswalk signs at the intersection of Yellow Springs-Fairfield and Fair Acres roads, which Council member Carmen Brown said have already made a difference in slowing traffic in that area.
Burns also said that several flashing bike crossing signs were erected at the Ellis bike spur where it crosses Polecat Road. According to him, the responsibility of maintaining signage at that location was recently passed to the Village; previously signage on the bike path was under the purview of the Greene County Parks and Trails Department.
“The county will still do the striping [on the bike path], but we can now keep improving the signage there — to go above and beyond to make sure tragedy doesn’t happen again,” Burns said of a fatal bike-and-car collision that occurred at that bike crossing last summer.
Brown responded: “I feel really proud that, as a village, we’ve taken the initiative to take care of that.”
In other Council business, Jan. 16—
Settlement reached, new contracts
Upon the passage of two resolutions read at Tuesday’s meeting, Village Council authorized Burns to execute a $375,000 settlement with JNT Excavating, LLC, an area company that defaulted last summer on their contracts for two municipal projects.
At the beginning of 2023, the Village contracted JNT to work on a water main extension project on King Street, as well as to build out a two-inch galvanized water line project.
After the company’s default last August, and extensive negotiations with their insurer, the Village reached a settlement that represents the difference between the JNT contracts and the newly selected contractor — Major Enterprises, LLC — of $296,728.15 plus $78,271.85, which reimburses the Village for legal and engineering costs and liquidated damages incurred due to the default.
Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship said that although the settlement makes the Village financially whole again, JNT’s default hampered the Village’s short timeline of completing the water main extension and water line projects.
“The liquidated damages are to recoup the cost that it’s taken and the time that’s been lost to get the jobs done,” she said. “Time is of the essence. The second water tower is [temporarily] going offline in June, so these projects need to get started.”
Lawson Place eviction
For the first time since the Village purchased the 16-unit Lawson Place Apartments in November 2021, Council members voted affirmatively to formally evict a tenant.
According to Burns, who is acting property manager for the apartments, that individual is five months behind on rent, and they were given repeated and due notice of the impending eviction as well as recourse.
Council did not publicly name the tenant being evicted.
Council President Kevin Stokes expressed some hesitation with the resolution to evict the individual.
“Sure, we have a fiduciary responsibility as landlords, but we also have a social responsibility to help folks out,” Stokes said. “What options do folks have in terms of getting support when facing these situations? Are we taking strides to help folks? Are they taking advantage of resources?”
“They have,” Burns responded.
While this marks the Village’s first formal eviction, former Village Manager Josué Salmerón did terminate two long-standing lease agreements with two tenants at the end of 2022. According to Salmerón at the time, that decision was made after repeated noise complaints were leveled against those individuals.
As of last summer, when Council voted to increase Lawson Place’s rents by 3%, it now costs $668.37 per month for an unrenovated unit and $742.63 for a renovated unit.
The next Village Council meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in the John Bryan Community Center.