Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pedestrian bridge to cross Raccoon Creek along 62

By DEBBIE GILLUM
Monday April 13, 2015 12:26 PM

The Johnstown Village Council on April 1 approved the construction of the Raccoon Creek pedestrian bridge.

The bridge would run parallel to U.S. Route 62 over Raccoon Creek, near Whit's Frozen Custard, and would serve as the walkway in a heavy-traffic area. The project would include a bridge and trail construction from Bigelow Drive to Westgate Drive.

The Ohio Department of Transportation will pitch in $430,000 for the project, and the village is responsible for the remainder.

ODOT District 5 spokeswoman Ericka Pfeifer said the bridge construction is expected to go out to bid April 23. She said she couldn't give a timetable for construction but said the project would "have a very rough estimate of finishing late this year."

Johnstown already has invested $10,000 in engineering costs and another $10,000 to buy private property.

Village engineer Jamie Decker estimated the project cost at $609,000, which is lower than the $840,600 total ODOT had estimated in early March.

Village Manager Jim Lenner said if the costs and construction bids turn out to be lower than ODOT's estimate, the village would be issued a refund.

Council's April 1 vote is contrary to its March 17 vote, when members voted 5-2 against the project, citing a lack of information.

With more information on hand from village finance director Dana Steffan, council on April 1 considered funding the pedestrian bridge through a bond, which would be like a loan, or through using what money the village has in the estate-tax fund, which has a $750,000 balance.

Council member David Keck expressed concern that using money from the estate-tax fund could jeopardize the village's ability to react to emergency situations.

Keck referenced a recent storm-sewer collapse that forced part of Oregon Street to be closed.

Village leaders knew the storm sewer was in disrepair, Keck said, but the village did not have the necessary money to fix it.

"We can move funds around and make this project happen," Steffan said. "In the future, we can replenish the funds."

Council members Cheryl Robertson and Carol Van Deest said it would be foolish to refuse money from ODOT, which initially approved a grant for the project in 2008. A lack of funds prevented the village from moving forward then.

Mayor Sean Staneart said that in the next few years, more children will be walking near Route 62 because of new housing developments.

Council also approved spending $380,000 from the estate-tax fund for the bridge.