Last Thursday I was invited to be the guest speaker at the Lions Club to discuss the status of the many projects that the City has going on around Kent.
I wrote up my speech the night before, but like most of my talks, I rarely follow my script and I ended up improvising for about 35 minutes. I hate to see the time invested in writing the speech go to waste, so here it is as a blog post.
Lions Club Speech
Right now in Kent we’re definitely living thru a period of be careful what you ask for – and I don’t necessarily mean listening to my speech this afternoon, although by the time I’m done that may apply as well.
I’m referring to all the work we’ve got started all over town – with construction zones and detour signs to prove it.
I have fond memories of my first tour of Kent led by Councilman Wayne Wilson and former Mayor John Fender, listening to their heckling of one another sprinkled in with their aspirations of all the things they hoped could happen in Kent.
Their faith and pride in the Kent community was genuine, and that, as much as anything else, is what attracted me to become a part of Kent. I wanted to be a part of starting something.
Little did I know at the time just how much we’d get started. Just try to drive around Kent without encountering a traffic detour or construction zone these days. Good luck.
I’m guessing that there’s a couple of you who have probably said at one time or another recently who’s the genius that has construction zone blocking just about every connector street in Kent – uh, that would be me.
Actually it would be Jim Bowling our city engineer but I’m the one that inspired him to tear stuff up and get building so I’ll take the blame. Mia Culpa.
Of course I never dreamed that Jim would do his job quite so well but despite all the temporary inconveniences we’ve now got momentum on our side, and it’s a positive momentum pushing us forward rather than the rip tide of this last recession that tried to pull us into the undertow like so many of our neighboring cities.
The funny thing about cities is that you’re either moving forward or falling behind – I’ve really never found a middle ground in the places I’ve worked.
Investments tend to be contagious and we banked on that when we went to City Council and made a case that even in these tough economic times we needed to spend money and make critical strategic investments that we thought would begin to turn the fly wheel in the community’s favor.
Don’t think for a minute that was an easy sell – it wasn’t. City Council is respectfully tight fisted when it comes to spending City tax dollars and don’t be fooled by all the construction, it doesn’t mean that they’ve loosened the purse strings, they remain fiscally conservative but they see the opportunity in this economic crisis.
We’ve been very diligent and deliberate about structuring deals that we could afford and that we felt over time would produce a return that justified the spending.
We made a business case and Council bought into the strategy and felt the timing was right for the City to take a leadership role in pushing us towards an economic recovery, giving the staff the green light to pull a few triggers and see what we can get started. The fruits of which you’re beginning to see right now.
I think the part I’m most proud of is how we hired great people, pointed them in the direction we wanted to go, and then got out of their way – and now we’re seeing just how good our city employees are.
Over the last couple of years we’ve leveraged close to $50 million in Federal & State grants. For every $1 dollar we’ve been spending, we’ve pulled in $7 dollars of non-city money.
A great example of that is the Crain / Fairchild Ave. Bridge project. We are spending less money and getting 2 bridges with trail connections, and landscaping, with about four times the value in total of what we would have got under the original bridge replacement project.
So let’s catch up on some of these projects, like the Crain Avenue Bridge.
Crain Avenue– Fairchild Avenue Bridge
New Bridge decking is planned to be poured this week (June 13 – 17) which means we’re on track to have the new bridge open and functional by September of this year.
Beaver Excavating is continuing to work on the last wall to be constructed along the ABC RR (upper tracks). The wall is necessary to raise the siding track that services Star of the West Mill. The contractor is finishing the last retaining wall now so that in July we’ll be raising the rails of the upper tracks 4 feet for about ¾ mile from Main Street north to Crain Avenue.
Beaver Excavating has installed most of the underground utilities on Water Street and is currently constructing a series of retaining walls on the east side of the road in front of the residential housing.
The approaches to the new bridge on SR43 are done and the contractor should be finished with the approaches to the east side of the bridge by September.
Once traffic is converted over to the new bridge, the old bridge will be torn down and rebuilt as a pedestrian bridge next year.
The road detours will remain mostly what you see out there today for the remainder of this year.
Next year the contractor will go back and finalize the approaches to the new bridge on both sides.
Downtown Redevelopment Projects
City – the City’s mixed use block is essentially done, we have some final work to do at the east end of the property but it looks like we should be able to finish up our work this month.
KSU – Just removed the house and graded the property for the future hotel and conference center.
PARTA – demo bid opened this Monday, and we expect to see the old Commercial Press/Auto Parts building come down in July. The site will include a lot of earth moving – some 27,000 cubic yards (equivalent of a football field 4’ deep) which will go on this Fall.
City Agreements Done – City/KSU, City/Parta, City/Fairmount, City/Pizzuti, City/Ametek, City/Davey Tree
KSU Deals – are all done with the exception of the operating agreement between KSU and Pizzuti for the hotel and conference center. Underway, likely to be done this month.
PARTA – deals are done, in the process of hiring their construction manager with start date later this summer.
**financing for each is well underway – I expect all financing to be in place this month.
Site Plans – Approved last month
Construction Plans – being prepared as we speak, looking at footer/foundations to permits to be pulled late summer/early fall for all of the projects.
Ron Burbick’s Acorn Alley Phase 2
— Underway, open late summer/early fall, announced his tenants
— Already designing his next building to the north and the plaza in the middle of the alley extension
City Alley 4 Improvement Project
— underground utilities, brick pavers, pedestrian friendly
— underway, done by end of 2011
City Surface Parking Lot (135 spaces)
— design underway
— 2012 construction
Erie& Depeyster Street Redesign Work
— Parts included in PARTA project
— Parts included in the City Capital plan
— Civil design work underway should begin construction early 2012 with completion date in mid-summer tied to the opening of the new facilities
— KSU purchases reported in newspaper last week; University has all property they need to connect the esplanade to downtown, all purchased at appraised values.
— Engineering & Design of the esplanade currently underway
— Esplanade is 1/3 mile long, 2 parallel 12’ wide brick paver paths separated by a 10’ green space in between, green lawn area, brick arches, gateway, stone elements, benches, landscape, etc.
SR 59 – Right of Way turned over to the ownership of the City, fence can come down and we will install new signal and pedestrian crossing at Erie and SR 59 in 2012.
SR59 – Street lights and Haymaker Bridge Fencing – This work is done and resulted in upgraded fixtures (both function and aesthetic) – replaced rusted galvanized poles with black poles – more finished and attractive look. Same with fencing, banner mounts on poles.
SR 59 Traffic Signal Replacement and Upgrade – Installation work is underway, mast arm replacements for all the span wire; includes overhead signs and signals; state of the art traffic signal communications, centralized computer, video detection and video feeds. Conduit is installed, foundations being built from Middlebury to Horning plus Summit at 43, using fiber communications (includes some dark fiber for future use).
Summit Street Improvement Project — $11 million, design underway, from Lincoln to Loop, committee meetings for design options, soon public meeting (likely in August); project is to improve Safety/Congestion/Access – and will also improve aesthetics by coordinating with KSU projects in this corridor, pull sidewalks back, install some medians, increased landscaping, etc.
KSU $250 million Capital Improvements – largest investment in history of University; including buildings and grounds. Pending financing discussions with the State.
As exciting as all the new stuff is, we’re also investing at all time highs in maintaining our existing public infrastructure. We’re spending 40% more on street maintenance, up to $850,000 a year. Not necessarily enough, but it’s a commitment that no street gets left behind in Kent.
Odds & Ends
Fed Fuller Bridge — $970,000 Federal grant, 2012 design/review, 2013 build
Tannery Hike and Bike Trail Segment — design by end of year, construct in 2012.
Also Hike and Bike from Esplanade to Tannery – probably in 2013.