Archive for Thursday, November 13, 2008

Officials say downtown project will finish on time

November 13, 2008

Construction on the downtown beautification project is set to move from the east side of Main Street to the west side next Thursday.

And though early estimates had the project switching from the east to the west side in early October, Mike Kesinger, project supervisor for RD Johnson, said he believes the project will meet its deadline of early December.

The southbound lane on Main Street will be closed next Thursday and traffic will be opened in the northbound lane for the first time since

July 7.

“We’ve had a few slowdowns and the weather has been pretty decent, but I still think I’ll meet my deadline,” Kesinger said.

What initially was said to be a 90-day job turned into a 150-day job because the city was able to afford to make more improvements to the streets and to storm drains in the area of the fire and police station.

A rainy late spring contributed to a delay of the project, causing it to get started about three weeks late on July 7.

Cool summer temperature kept the project on schedule, but then a few rain delays as well as miscommunication between the city and electrical engineers also slowed the project.

City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said electrical engineers had been behind schedule for most of the project. Light poles that could have been ordered in late July weren’t ordered until Oct. 1.

Beatty said she didn’t think paving won’t be done until spring because the ground temperature needs to be no cooler than 55 degrees in order to resurface the streets. But Kesinger wants to pave one more block and parking spots.

Despite the delays, Beatty still said the city was pleased with the project.

“There was only one week during the project where I would say the contractor got a little carried away with opening too much and they got a little sloppy,” she said. “But other than the electrician delay and the weather delays, everything has been going along as scheduled.”

She also noted that crews have worked around the CPA Picnic, EudoraFest and the recent Halloween festivities.

“The only disappointing thing about this — and maybe its our fault for not educating the public — is that most of this project is being paid for by grant funds,” Beatty said.

Eighty percent of streetscape is paid for by grant from KDOT and Douglas County will pay for the overlay.

“On a $1.4 million dollar project, the citizens of Eudora are only paying for about $400,000 of it. That’s huge, and I still get people who ask me why we’re wasting our money.”

Throughout the process, the spirits of downtown business owners have been up and down depending on the day.

“Overall, I think it’s gone pretty good,” said Dan Strimple, owner of Cutter’s Smokehouse and Pub, 726 Main St. “We knew going into this that business was not going to be good. Something that really concerned us at the get-go was that we were sold a package of 90 days, and then it expanded into five or six months. We weren’t really happy with that, but we understand that things needed to be fixed.”

Eula Lang, co-owner of Quilting Bits and Pieces, 736 Main St., echoed Strimple’s comments.

“We’ve been extremely pleased with the crews,” Lang said. “It’s been inconvenient, but they’ve done their best to minimize that as much as possible.”

Lang said her business hasn’t been affected to a large degree by the construction.

Strimple said the lack of lighting downtown has lead to about a 75 percent drop-off in his nighttime business.

However, he also noted that the pub had one of its best days in months on a day when concrete slabs were stacked up in front of his door. He attributed a customer base built during the seven or so years he’s been in business.

“If they want to come to your place, they’re going to come to your place,”

Strimple counted himself among businesses who were not doing well, but he said that had just as much to do with the downward spiraling economy as construction

“There have been three businesses that have spoken to us because they’re struggling, and if you include us in that it’s four,” Strimple said. “Times are tough, and it could be a flip of a coin for me if I want to stick it out.

“We’ve been fortunate because we haven’t lost money, but we haven’t made any either.”

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