North Kanawha Street business owner Jerry Henderson attended the Sept. 24 Consolidated Public Works Board meeting to address the board about a project in that area.

North Kanawha Street business owner asks city to prioritize project over possible North Spring Street fix

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon business owner asked the Consolidated Public Works Board not to delay a road project on North Kanawha Street.

Baxa Motel owner Jerry Henderson attended the Sept. 24 Consolidated Public Works Board meeting because she had read the project would be delayed in order to work on another project on North Spring Street.

According to a previous My Buckhannon article, Henderson is likely referring to the city’s plan to install sidewalks, lighting and paving along North Kanawha Street from its intersection with Main Street to the train depot. During the city’s budgeting session in March, the North Kanawha Street was scheduled to take place during the 2020-2021 construction season.

Henderson said she was upset by information, possibly reported on from a Sept. 3, 2020 Buckhannon City Council meeting, during which City of Buckhannon Public Works Director Jerry Arnold said he was researching and planning a project on North Spring Street. His report to council states that a new North Spring Street project “would be a collaborative effort between the Sewer, Storm Water and Street Departments.”

In his Sept. 3 report, Arnold told council he anticipated the start of the North Spring Street project in Spring 2021, writing “[The] Street Department will have to shift funding and workforce from the North Kanawha Street project to this project (North Spring Street), postponing completion of the N. Kanawha Street project to Spring of 2022.”

Henderson told the Consolidated Board she wasn’t happy about the change.

“I was totally unaware there had been any changes, but I read in the newspaper that the project on North Kanawha Street has been delayed for two years, and the Spring Street project was going to be done instead,” Henderson said. “Could you tell me what prompted this change since North Kanawha was already approved, it was budgeted, and the businesses were notified?”

Henderson’s business, The Baxa Motel, is located on North Kanawha Street.

Street department supervisor Brad Hawkins explained the North Kanawha project will be a “complete street project,” which means the city Street Department will make the sidewalks ADA-compliant, add in new lighting and blacktop the whole street. The street department is also planning to make the sidewalks less wide and add more parking to the street.

“The business owners came to us at some point and wanted us to look into installing parking spaces on both sides of Kanawha Street, so the only logical way to get parking, plus two lanes of traffic, without [making the street a one-way street] is to narrow the sidewalks back to a five-foot walk,” Hawkins said. “That allows us to do parking on both sides of the street, plus maintain a two-lane street.”

Hawkins said the North Kanawha Street project was approved and budgeted for this season and the Street Department ultimately plans on completing the project – just possibly at a later date.

“It’s not that we’re not going to do [the North Kanawha Street project],” Hawkins explained after the meeting. “It’s just rescheduled for a later date.”

Hawkins emphasized that the North Spring Street project is still in the researching and planning phase and hasn’t even been officially approved by city officials.

“The Spring Street isn’t definite right now, it’s still in the pre-planning stage,” he said.

The potential North Spring Street project will start on at North Spring’s intersection with Main and progress northward, as sewer, water and gas lines are upgraded and/or replaced.

In addition, Hawkins said there has not been an official decision to reschedule the North Kanawha project because it hasn’t been called to a vote yet.

“We’re trying to get with the gas company because the lines need updating, so we’re trying to get them to correspond with us to replace their gas lines while have everything opened,” Hawkins said. “When we seal everything up, we hope it will be complete, so we don’t have the gas company coming in months after we black-topped and cutting a big hole to fix a gas line. We’re trying to get all utilities, even the ones that aren’t city-affiliated on this project to have a nice complete street that we’ve been needing for a long time.”

Henderson said the sidewalks on North Kanawha are in bad shape, and they should also be a priority.

“The sidewalks are in terrible state of disrepair, and I, as a property owner, get threatened over and over and over, because if somebody falls going across the street or at night, when there’s no lights down there, that could come back to me,” Henderson said.

She explained that she asked the city if she should get the sidewalks fixed in the past but opted not to because city officials told her the project had been approved.

“I asked the mayor and the department head at the time if I should go ahead and try to have my sidewalk done, but if I did that, I can’t support having you come in and cut it back to increase parking,” Henderson said. “I was told it would be in that budget, and as recent as Christmas, I was told it was still in the budget, everything was moving along and as soon as you got done with the West Main Street, that that would be the very next project.”

Mayor Robbie Skinner reiterated the North Spring Street project is not on the books yet, and even if the North Kanawha Street project ends up being officially delayed, it will get completed.

“I can tell you that I have a piece of paper at my office from (Public Works Director) Jerry Arnold that has your project on the priority list, and that that priority list goes through 2022,” Skinner said. “Even with the changes, I promise you, it’s going to happen, we are going to do it, but we are not showing fiduciary responsibility if we do not take care of these issues on Spring Street. We are doing a disservice to the taxpayers of this community if we don’t fix this.”

Henderson asked the board to reconsider delaying the North Kanawha Street project, and the board said technically the North Spring Street project is not on the books yet and they will take her concerns into consideration when the project is presented to them.

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