Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Advance means St. Gregory streetscape can begin this spring

The Mount Adams Business Guild will receive $50,000 in advanced capital funding through the Cincinnati Department of Community Development's (DCD) Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program (NBDIP) to enable it to begin the St. Gregory Street streetscape project, but burying the utility lines will likely have to wait until next year.

In 2007, the Business Guild received $600,000 in NBDIP funding to improve the street between Hatch and Pavilion streets.

Prior to the City's acceptance of bids for the work, the Business Guild requested that utilities be placed underground as part of the work.

According to a memo to the Mayor and City Council from city manager Milton Dohoney Jr., the idea had previously been considered but had been ruled out due to its cost.

"In older neighborhoods, it is frequently cost-prohibitive for property owners to connect to an underground system as this can require the entire structure to be rewired," Dohoney says. "Also, the additional electrical design and conduit and cable installation costs make the project too expensive, given limited capital resources for streetscape construction."

Because of these costs, the Business Guild committed to paying the connection costs for any owner who couldn't afford it, and, in 2008, council appropriated an additional $150,000 for the project.

However, Cincinnati Bell's underground wiring costs have skyrocketed since 2007, and test borings found bedrock only two feet below the street's sidewalks.

"This makes the cost of trenching for utility conduits and underground vaults much higher than previously estimated," Dohoney says, adding that the project costs are now approximately $250,000 higher than originally estimated.

Wait 'til next year

Dohoney says that DCD typically scales down projects or recommends that they wait until the next round of NBDIP funding when costs exceed original estimates.

In his opinion, the only practical way to reduce the scope of the project is to postpone the most costly portion, the burying of underground cables.

Doing so would save approximately $200,000.

"Removing this cost from the 2009 project makes the only additional funding needed $50,000 to cover the Department of Transportation and Engineering's construction management costs," Dohoney says.

The $50,000 in NBDIP funding will come from the Mount Lookout Streetscape Phase I project, which isn't expected to proceed this year.

Next year, the Business Guild will apply for an additional $200,000 in NBDIP funding to begin underground cable installation.

Bids for the St. Gregory Street project have been received, and work is ready to proceed.