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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — On Monday night, City Council members adopted two pieces of legislation authorizing the city's safety-service director to contract for engineering services on city projects.

The city will contract with EMH&T for services relating to the bike trail path under the South Main Street viaduct. Joel Daniels, safety-service director, will advertise for bids and then award a contract for services for a downtown traffic study.
In a committee meeting prior to the legislative session, City Engineer Brian Ball told council that the Ohio Department of Transportation accepted the bike trail as a priority project for FY2019. ODOT will pay 95 percent of the $1 million construction cost; the city will pay the remaining 5 percent plus the environmental design costs.

“The heavy part of the work will be on the environmental side,” said Ball. Environmental work includes building a wall section in the river to stabilize the trail. Bundled into EMH&T's contract is environmental work involved with the Center Run waterline project and the Coshocton Road/Vernedale/Kroger intersection project.

ODOT will award the bike path contract in late July 2018. Ball said that EMH&T will get underway with design services in March; the city, with help from ODOT, will do the environmental work this summer.

The downtown traffic study council authorized is expected to cost $100,000. Ball said the last relevant traffic study, done in 2004, is no longer valid. The new study will look at how traffic flows into the downtown area, volume, traffic light patterns, routes 3 and 36 and rerouting Ohio 13 onto Sandusky Street.

In response to Councilwoman Nancy Vail's concern about spending money on the projects when the city is facing a budget crunch, Ball said that both projects will improve safety, traffic flow and efficiency. Referring to the bike trail, he said that if the city turns down an ODOT project that has already been accepted, the city could be put at the bottom of the list for future projects and may also face decreased funding.

Regarding the traffic study, he said, “We're going to start on the High Street/Sandusky Street intersection in two weeks. Should it be two lanes or four lanes? If we reroute Ohio 13, we don't know if two lanes will work. This study will help us apply for a grant this July; if we don't have a vision prepared, we can't get that money. It does seem like a big number, but the return will be one hundred fold.”

Councilwoman Susan Kahrl said the city should take advantage of the state grant money since the state has cut back on other city revenue. “This is not just a decision made yesterday for this project; it's been wanted for a long time,” said Councilman John Francis. Auditor Terry Scott pointed out that money for the engineering services is included in the 2017 budget.

Council suspended the required three readings on both pieces of legislation; Vail voted no to suspending the rules on the traffic study piece. Both resolutions passed unanimously. When it came time to vote, Vail said, “I came feeling I would object, but after hearing Mr. Ball and the ramifications, I will support [the legislation] with some reluctance. We need to take care of the funds we have.”

Council also waived three readings and adopted other legislation:

*Authorizing Scott to transfer funds, pay bills and make supplemental appropriations. Supplemental appropriations include $8,520.73 from an Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation grant for safety equipment for the water department, $5,703.66 from the Baldwin Shrine Club for a child training mannequin for the fire department and $10,308 taken from the police and fire pension funds due to an calculation error.
*Appointing Tom Mickley to the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission and Mike Whitaker to the the Solid Waste Haulers Board of Appeals
*An updated ordinance setting the salary of the safety-service director due to some wording being omitted from the ordinance previously adopted
*Setting the compensation of the probation officers, MERIT Drug Court coordinator and court clerks for the Mount Vernon Municipal Court
*Maintaining the compensation of the city council president and council members at $8,378 for 2018 and 2019 and the city treasurer at $8,888 for 2018-21

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