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MOUNT VERNON — Residents in the area of the Parrott/South Main Street intersection improvement project used a meeting with city and construction officials to complain about poor communications by the city and the effects of the construction.
Several, including the owners of Peppy’s Pull Thru, which relies on traffic for business, said they were under the impression the project was going to be done in sections, so traffic could be maintained through more of the construction, and they felt the city has been lax on communication about changes or developments in the project.
City Engineer Brian Ball provided an overview of the project, including some of the difficulties that have been encountered. He explained that the idea of doing the project in sections was dropped because it would have endangered some of the funding if the project extended into next summer, and they decided it would be less disruptive if the project could reach the point by November that the streets can be reopened — though the project will not be finished.
Ball said using the scenario in which the project would be done in sections would mean shutting the project down for three months in the winter, and then risking losing some of the grant money awarded for the project, if it isn’t done within two years of receiving the grant.
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Ball said one of the bigger problems is that Columbia Gas did not complete relocating lines by the date they promised, and then installed lines at the wrong depths, and even the wrong locations, which has caused problems with installing water lines.
By closing South Main Street and the intersections at Adamson, Parrott and Delano streets, Ball said the project can be completed in a quicker timeline. This would allow Knox County to proceed with rebuilding the bridge at the other end of Parrott Street starting with a projected date in 2019.
He explained how the project will improve the turn radii at the Parrott and South Main streets intersection, allowing trucks to better navigate the intersection. It will bring the street level and railroad crossing into closer alignment, while also widening the crossing.
Ball said the railroad is still waiting on plan approval and that section of the project may or may not be completed by November. That piece, he said, was not relevant to parts of the project east of South Main Street.
A Delano Street residents asked officials to look at the operation of the traffic signal at Newark Road and Parrott Street. The lower volume of traffic at Parrott Street keeps the light from turning, making it difficult to leave Delano Street. Residents also discussed the volume of traffic driving by the road closed signs asking if more can be done to limit access.
However, when he referred to a letter that had been sent out, several members of the audience claimed they had received no such letter.
Mayor Richard Mavis said the city has been trying to improve communications, but obviously has more to do and apologized for shortcomings. He said the city will try to do a better job by keeping updates posted on Facebook and Instagram, on the city website and in the local media, as well as putting alerts out on the WENS network.
Ball, and contractor Dusty Layton, told the group of about 30 people, that expectations are for the roads to be open mid-November even if only a base layer of asphalt is laid.
One of the welcome items, reported by Layton, was that testing of the new water lines should begin early next week. Once the water is satisfactory, resident connections will commence and, he said, when the water line work is finally done, they can “really start making progress” because then they’ll be able to rebuild the road surface and begin paving.
First Ward Councilman Sam Barone and Fourth Ward Councilman Jeff Gottke were also in attendance.