Tuesday’s September 16 LFUCG worksession opened with S. Limestone business owners expressing their frustration with the ongoing construction problems on their corridor – asking for relief in terms of extended crews, extended hours, and increased speed of construction.
McDonald’s owner Joe Graviss told Council Members and the Mayor, “If I can build a McDonalds in 100 days we can put in a road in six months.” He asked them, “Please amend your contract. Go to three shifts. And please don’t study it to death and cause the death of more businesses.”
On the other hand, Reese Reinhold told LFUCG he’s been to every task force meeting, that his daughter lives on S. Limestone, and he hoped S. Limestone would serve as a model, adding, “”this is the way construction projects should be done.”
Lori Vaught, a McDonald’s supervisor, spoke after Reinhold, and said that with all due respect, his home on S. Ashland was “not in the middle” of this project and that his daughter is probably “not losing her life savings,” adding, “these people are struggling to keep their doors open; and eat and drink.”
In the online discussion, one observer noted, “if they had to redesign Man O War Hamburg intersections, they wouldn’t shut that down. They wouldn’t want to lose that tax revenue.”
State Representative Kathy Stein addressed the Council, and noted that she lived near the corridor and she characterized the losses to S. Limestone as “devastating” on a recent walking tour.
Beth Hanna (Hanna’s on Lime) showed the Council slides of the neighborhood and reported that Bombay Brazier recently had to close its business for a week to accommodate the construction.
Project manager George Milligan and Public Works Commissioner Mike Webb both expressed their satisfaction with the project’s work ahead of schedule. Commissioner Webb reminded Council Members, he had “big concerns about having our contractor go faster than the Utilities can support.” Gilligan responded that adding a third shift was not practical because of access to materials and noise ordinances that would prevent 24-hour construction in a residential neighborhood that also included UK dorms and Good Samaritan.
Council Member Diane Lawless said the city is paying a premium for expedited construction and precision, saying, “I’d just like to know if we’re getting some money back.” Asking about offsite storage of heavy equipment for example, Milligan responded “that was the Plan. The Plan didn’t work, as they proposed it. We had to make adjustments.”
Milligan said of the crews’ responsiveness to the neighbors, “Contractors have taken their trash down for them; carried their groceries in for them…”
Lawless told Milligan, “We’re paying a premium for these things and ATS isn’t doing what they said they would do.”
After both Webb and Milligan had confirmed that third shifts were not feasible, Council Member Ed Lane asked Milligan if he had “any ideas” how they could help these businesses.
Milligan said No, while an online reader observed, “Isn’t CM Lane supposed to be a business guru?” further suggesting “maybe CM Lane give ‘em free advertising” in the Lane Report.
Vice Mayor Jim Gray said, “It is wise of us not to be extravagant in describing the difficulties of this Project,” (citing the Brooklyn Bridge as an example), while expressing his confidence that the speed could be improved.
An online participant observed “VM Gray needs to run or stop grandstanding. This is getting old.”
In other news, former Council Member Bill Farmer addressed the Council and asked them to “feel my pain” as he requested exemptions for the new LexPark meters in the Chevy Chase area. His request was sent to Committee.
TIF application fees were addressed, and discussions will resume in the next worksession.