The Finance Committee tonight took care of a lot of important business, of which just a few items are detailed here because they reflect issues brought up at previous meetings or carry a high price tag. Two of those projects affect West Homewood in particular–the Oxmoor Road improvement project–by Gonzalez-Strength & Associates, which includes major road changes from Palisades to Barber Court–and the West Homewood Village project, handled by Walter Schoel Engineering.
Due to continued public concerns about the Oxmoor Road project, James Brown of Gonzalez-Strength & Associates said an additional public input session has been scheduled for Thursday, June 26, from 4-7 p.m. at the Homewood Senior Center. The project involves changes to the Oxmoor/Green Springs intersection, both ramps of Interstate 65, de-signaling some intersections, and taking down one lane of the “turkey foot” split of Oxmoor at Cobb Street, among other improvements. As people in charge of large publicly-financed projects often do, Mr. Brown seemed to take a dim view of this latest interruption* from the public itself, and described other changes that had arisen in the long lead-up to this project: The round-about intersection has been dropped, Cobb Street is to remain open, several buildings on Scott Street, the current Purple Onion building and the vacant Lovoy’s property (and cemetery) have been deemed historic and therefore untouchable during the construction, he said. The business at hand tonight–recommending the signing of a utilities agreement and $300,000+ right-of-way acquisition agreement–both passed. Details, below.
*To be fair, the first public input session was in May 2012.
Members present: Walter Jones, chairman, Vance Moody, Peter Wright, and Britt Thames. Also present were Heather Reid, Fred Hawkins and Bruce Limbaugh, council president.
Absent: Jenifer Champ Wallis
Audience attendance: several
Major business covered:
- The committee heard a pitch to provide investment services from the last in a series of firms that have made presentations in hopes of winning a city contract. Tonight they heard from Kassouf & Co. CPAs, with Jerry Callahan doing most of the talking. The city is interested in improving its return on investments–not an easy task in the post-recession world and with municipal policies in place to reduce risk and safeguard principal. The group suggested amending one city fiscal policy that limits the allowed investment period.
- Carried over discussing a proposed $6,500 contract with a staffing firm Mr. Thames recommended to study the city work force and make recommendations on benefits, wages, etc.
- Dropped, for now, an emergency storm water pipe and road repair bid opening due to the discovery of a Jefferson County-controlled sanitary sewer in the same area. No one wants to get tangled in the Jeffco’s sewer system. The bids will be issued later.
- The committee voted not to recommend footing the bill for extra police duty during a Nov. 1 “Homewood Rib Run/Fall BBQ Race. The event itself has already been approved, but the committee denied the special request to pay for additional security–which is apparently routinely supplied by all other groups holding special events in city limits. Also receiving a negative recommendation was the organizers’ request for the city to provide a $1,000 sponsorship for the event.
- Voted to recommend–with the proviso that to do otherwise would kill the project–a $300,000+ estimated expenditure to buy right-of-way on the route of the Oxmoor Boulevard improvements. The measure, when passed by the council, will authorize the mayor to enter into the agreement for this, and for utilities, for the project that will make significant changes to the industrial end of Oxmoor extending west from Palisades to Barber Court. Mr. Brown, a principal with Gonzalez-Strength engineering firm, announced an additional public input session has been set for Thursday, June 26, from 4-7 p.m. at the Homewood Senior Center, due to continued concerns from residents, particularly about noise, he said. Mr. Brown said construction would begin in 2015 and last about two years, during which traffic will be pretty much a nightmare.
- Carried over the West Homewood Village kick-off project due to a substantial misunderstanding between Ward 2 representative Fred Hawkins and other council members, engineer Walter Schoel, and the city’s Engineering and Planning department. In brief, Mr. Hawkins and council members thought the $400,000 they had budgeted for the project this year was to construct street-scaping improvements around a little strip shop across Oak Grove Road from Patriot Park. Mr. Schoel, on the other hand, had presented plans for completing a master engineering plan for the entire 24-parcel West Homewood District, which also extended a good way down Oxmoor Road. Mr. Schoel explained he had followed instructions from the city’s planning department and Regional Planning Commission–who prepared the plan. In any case, it was decided he would bring a revised proposal for the specific construction project to the next committee meeting. The council was more interested in getting something built than in preparing a comprehensive plan that wouldn’t leave much money for construction this year, they said. Mr. Hawkins said most of the area on Oxmoor has already been studied and engineered; there was no need to duplicate that work.