Posted 9/29/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
It’s been a long summer of construction. Roads and highways have been torn up and closed off, with detours shifting weekly since the building season began.
Business owners knew the inconveniences were coming and they accepted it as growing pains that must be endured to improve the water, sewer, and streets.
While they remain patient with the situation, people in Tioga are ready for the work to be done and for things to return to normal.
“It has hurt businesses, but that was expected,” said Tim Joyce, owner of Tioga Drug.
He said access to his business wasn’t too bad until they tore up First and Second Avenues, in addition to closing off Main Street.
Karen Vetsch, owner of the Farmer’s Daughter, said she wished they’d have done First and Second Avenues after completing Main Street.
“I think we were all dealing with it, including our customers, but when the side streets got torn up, it became too much at once,” Vetsch said.
Both Joyce and Vetsch said Commissioner John Grubb and Mayor Drake McClelland have been in to discuss their needs.
“I feel as though they are definitely trying to do their best with the situation,” Vetsch said.
McClelland said the city informed businesses what to expect and the inconveniences were largely unavoidable. The city did the best it could to minimize the impacts, but reducing inconveniences had to be balanced with a number of issues.
The mayor said they did the side streets at the same time because paving Main Street and the two avenues together will result in a significant reduction in costs.
The good news for the Main Street business owners is the problems should get a lot easier in the next two to three weeks. Quam Construction, the contractor for the Main Street upgrades, was finishing up the sidewalks last week, and they began paving the roads.
In another two or three weeks, Main Street, along with parking, will be open once again.
“It should be useable for public traffic,” McClelland said.
The paving of the side streets will come in the next couple of weeks after that.
At a construction update meeting Friday, representatives from Quam said they would be pouring concrete through the weekends to get the road open as soon as possible.
McClelland discussed specific issues too, like access to the post office, which is now becoming even more difficult as frames and markers are set up for the curb and gutter construction.
The mayor said elderly residents, who live in some apartments on Benson near Lil’s Diner, are having an especially difficult time navigating the precarious walkways. And the post office is a federal building with federal requirements for access.
The representative said they would do what they can to help level the walkway to the building until they can get sidewalks done.
The Bank of Tioga is also about to begin another phase of its renovation project.
“A third of that building is about to be torn down,” McClelland said.
David Grubb, Bank of Tioga, said due to the renovation, the sidewalk in front of the bank will not be completed until spring.
“That would be our guess,” Grubb said.
They are planning to have a paved ramp leading to the doorway, but the rest of the sidewalk will be gravel. Grubb said it will be compacted and usable. They are projecting renovations will be complete by year end.
On the Main Street extension, things are also looking a little better than they did last week. Last week city commissioners talked as if it would be very unlikely the road could be paved this year.
This is creating problems for the hospital as it is just about ready to open its newly expanded clinic, which includes a new ambulance bay accessible by the north Main Street road.
The road also is needed for access to apartments the hospital owns.
The Tioga Medical Center Board of Directors wrote a letter to the city citing a number of issues, including concerns the road would not be ready in time for the clinic opening.
The road currently has a single lane the hospital can use, but at the construction update meeting last week, Water Superintendent Jeff Moberg, who is also a volunteer with the Tioga Fire and Ambulance Department, said this would be inadequate.
“You cannot go bouncing a patient over that,” Moberg said.
Tioga Medical Center CEO Randall Pederson last week said he had not had a chance to discuss the issues with the mayor since the commission meeting.
The contractor, JR Civil, is now saying they can still get the road completed this building season, including paving. However, that is all dependent on weather. If things get too cold too quickly, the paving will have to wait until spring.
The city has an agreement with the contractors to not work on weekends to minimize noise. At the construction meeting, McClelland gave the contractors the go-ahead to work through the weekend to beat the weather.
“We need to get as much done as possible before winter,” McClelland said.