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Athens City Councilman Jeffrey Risner listens to another council member during the council's session on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (FILE)

City Council: Richland Avenue project postponed after budget concerns

City Council voted unanimously Monday to table the proposed ordinance that would allow for the construction of the Richland Avenue Pedestrian Passageway because the project is estimated to cost more than initially expected.

The project, a potential passageway from Baker Center to West Green, was initially proposed a year ago amid concerns for pedestrian and vehicular safety in the traffic-heavy Richland Bridge area. It has been repeatedly delayed, according to a previous Post report

The project was initially estimated to cost the city $3 million, but now is projected cost $3.4 million. According to Councilman Peter Kotses, D-At Large, the project’s bid came in “well above” its 110 percent allowance after a second bid.

Councilman Pat McGee, I-At Large, is not a proponent for the project, but still urges the city to find other methods of decreasing potential accidents in the area. 

“If there is a problem, I would suggest again, to the administration, and to city in general, to use this time wisely, because it is an opportunity to avoid injuries to pedestrians as well as figure out if there are alternative ways to decrease the traffic pathway,” McGee said. 

City Council also spoke about purchasing 526 new parking meters to be distributed in the city. About $460,000 would be necessary to complete this, as proposed in the ordinance. Mayor Steve Patterson said that the meters would be paid off in three or four years, should the ordinance pass. 

The decision to borrow money to purchase new meters rather than subleasing them is of financial benefit to the city, Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht said.

“We save money if we do it this way,” Hecht said. “We save a lot of money to borrow through the company that has the outside bank. The interest rate would have been 12 percent, they are giving us 1.6 percent.” 

The new meters’ maintenance would not be a financial burden to the city, Patterson said, as they would be maintained by the same individual that does so now, though inexpensive re-training may be necessary.

City Council also passed a resolution that affirmed its right to self-govern and home rule in response to Ohio legislation and policy that has been “steadily eroding our community’s home rule authority,” outlined in the resolution as statewide regulations concerning fracking, single-use grocery bags and common sense gun safety restrictions.


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