Work session brings all parties together

Those who are involved in making decisions on improvements to Vandalias downtown business district were given a lot of information to digest on Monday night. They now have the challenge of sifting through that information and reaching a consensus on what improvements, if any, will be made.

During the Vandalia City Councils work session, representatives of the citys consulting engineers, HMG Engineers, explained their beliefs on why the city has had nothing but bad luck in bidding out the downtown improvement project.

Those engineers also presented city officials as well as members of the Downtown Advisory Committee, Looking for Lincoln Committee members and former mayor Sandra Leidner what they see as the citys options.

Those options include separating the infrastructure improvements from the streetscape improvements, staging the project differently (i.e., shutting down all four blocks of Gallatin at one time), going with stenciled, brick-colored concrete instead of real brick pavers, pulling various aspects (such as benches, trash cans and tree grates) out of the project for the time being or scaling back the number of blocks included in the project.

The issue is now in the hands of the councils streets/sewers and water/disposal plants committee. They will formulate a recommendation and present it to the full council.

Its clear that infrastructure improvements are needed downtown, as evidenced by such things as the frequency of water line breaks. And a facelift would go a long way in luring new business to the heart of our downtown.

Unfortunately, the project due to factors such as a lack of qualified contractors in the area and the fact that federal funding is being used for the project looks like it will cost considerably more than earlier estimated. The engineers, who earlier guessed the project cost at $4.2 million, admit that all of the work because of those factors will likely cost at least $5 million.

The challenge will be deciding whether to keep the project at its current scale and, if so, devising a way to pay all of the costs.

Wednesdays work session was a good idea, because it brought together many of the key players. It would be equally positive for all of those players to be present again when the two council committees meet to put together their recommendation on the future of the project.

rb

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