The Herkimer village board accepted bids on a pair of projects at Monday evening’s meeting, but not before a sometimes-heated hour-long discussion with residents.
Engineer Anthony Carlisto, of Ward Associates, recommended the board accept the bid of $182,450 submitted by Central Paving for the Bellinger Creek project, which includes the replacement of the Maple Grove Avenue bridge with a box culvert.
“It’s an excellent bid,” said Carlisto, adding it falls well within the $225,000 economic development grant the village has been awarded for the project.
The state Department of Transportation red-flagged the bridge on Maple Grove Avenue last year.
After the June flood, the bridge had to be closed altogether and some of those who attended Monday’s meeting would prefer it remain closed.
A group of residents from the Pine Avenue and Maple Grove Avenue area attended the meeting after writing a letter to the board about the matter.
“A group of us are opposed to the bridge being replaced,” said Joseph Deeb, of 596 Pine Ave. He said there are some 14 children who live in the neighborhood, in addition to a day care center that adds another five or six children to that total.
He said residents would like to see a walking bridge replace the Maple Grove Avenue bridge and the neighborhood be left as a cul de sac.
“What about fire trucks and ambulances,” asked Trustee Harold Stoffolano.
The need for access if Lou Ambers Drive were closed was also raised.
Deeb said residents are afraid a child will be struck by a car and some action needs to be taken to improve safety in the neighborhood.
“We’re asking nicely,” he said. “We don’t want any problems.”
When asked what he would do if the board didn’t agree, Deeb said, “We’ll be taking things into our own hands.” He pulled out what appeared to be a Halloween mask and set it on the chair in front of him.
Lisa Rice, of 620 Pine Ave., asked the board to look at the area’s demographics. “There are more elderly people now and a lot of children,” she said. “One day I counted 84 cars going through and every one ran the stop sign.”
“We’re looking for safety,” she said. “Can we at least have a ‘Slow, children’ sign? The demographics have changed. We’re just worried.”
Brindisi turned his attention to Deeb, saying he was having a hard time focusing on the points being raised.
“I take that as a threat,” he said. “All I hear is what you said. I’m glad to help anybody, but nobody threatens us.”
Page 2 of 3 - Mayor Mark Ainsworth said he had received calls from two residents asking when the bridge would be replaced. In any case, he said, the decision is not up to the neighborhood, but up to the board.
Fred Weisser asked about the possibility of installing a gate to block traffic.
Stoffolano said the matter would have to be discussed with the police chief and Herkimer County 911 Center, but the board could look into it. He said he would like to see a gate at the top of Reservoir Road to block traffic.
Village Attorney Nicholas Macri said he would look into the possibility of lowering the speed limit.
Weisser said it is difficult for local residents to turn onto Lou Ambers Drive when a string of cars is heading up the hill to the college.
Police Chief Joseph Malone said he has been in contact with the college and police will be monitoring the situation.
Stephen Nehl, of 620 W. German St., wanted to know when work on Bellinger Street would begin and how it would impact his property.
Nehl also pointed out there is still a lot of rubble left from the flood. Concerns about the amount of flood debris in Brookwood Park and the status of the park were also raised.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Peter Macri said he is waiting for a meeting between village officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday. Once he gets the go-ahead, he said, crews will be removing the debris. As for reopening Brookwood Park, he said, there was damage to the creek wall by the footbridge and the village will have to seek prices on repairs. He didn’t know when the back road to the park could be repaired.
“They’re going to have to prioritize,” said the mayor.
The board accepted a low bid of $19,985 from Ocuto Blacktop and Paving, of Rome, for an emergency project to make repairs at Johnson Avenue at Talson Park, Church Street between Margaret and Henry streets and Dayton Place at Steuben Road. Macri said while the roads are passable, additional repairs must be made before winter.
Residents also raised concerns about the safety of those walking in the area near Maple Grove Avenue with classes starting soon at Herkimer County Community College and at Herkimer High School.
Herkimer School Superintendent Robert Miller said Tuesday village officials had contacted him with their concerns two or three weeks ago and bus transportation will be provided for high school students from the Maple Grove Avenue area until repairs are made.
Some residents complained people have been cutting across their property or going under or tearing down yellow tape placed to keep people out.
Page 3 of 3 - They were advised to post “no trespassing” signs and to call police if they see someone trespassing.