Streetscape debate begins anew

The debate over how to proceed with Bellevue's business district streetscape project was triggered once again Tuesday evening when the director of the Quaker Valley Council of Governments told Bellevue Council members that decisions must be made in the very near future in order for the borough to complete the next phase on time and protect its eligibility for future funding.

QVCOG director Susan Hockenberry said that construction should begin by mid-April. Working back from that date, she said, means that Bellevue would have to have specifications to advertise for construction bids by the beginning of February, and be prepared to award a contract by mid-March.

In order to meet all those deadlines, Hockenberry said, council would need to approve a design by the end of December.

Several members of council expressed concern over the results achieved in earlier phases of the project, problems such as flooding and cracked sidewalks and crosswalks that have not been addressed to their satisfaction, and delays in completing past phases. Those members of council said that a new design architect was needed.

Council member Linda Woshner said that flooding along Lincoln Avenue was “terrible” in heavy rains, with water rising to the level of ankle-deep in the areas of the first two phases of the project, but not in the most recent. Design architect Brad Hazelwood of EDP told council recently that the excess stormwater reaching Lincoln Avenue was a result of the administrative consent order mandate involving county, state and federal environmental authorities to reduce the amount of rain and surface water that enters the sanitary sewer system. Much of that effort involved disconnecting rain leaders that once directed stormwater into the sewers. Council member Vencent Menosky repeated this consideration at Tuesday's pre-council meeting.

Woshner, however, said that there was a visible difference in drainage on different parts of Lincoln Avenue and, no matter what the source, the main street flooding had to be addressed.

Council member Tom Hrynda said that water is actually puddling in the center of sidewalks in some areas, and that the newly-constructed sidewalks have cracked in only one year.

Council member Kathy Coder, who chaired the meeting in the absence of council president Lynn Tennant Heffley, said that she did not know if there was time to solicit proposals from other design companies and have a new architect able to submit a design by the end of the year.

Council member Henry Lenard said that council has consistently been rushed into making decisions about the streetscape, with insufficient notice given to council of deadlines and options. He said that he believed problems with the streetscape are directly related to design and that council needed to find a way to address that in whatever time was available.

Business manager Jennifer Slavicek, who is the director of The Shepherd's Door on Lincoln Avenue, said that “horrible” construction conditions over a five-month period caused the business's profits, which go into community support programs, to drop by 35 percent so far this year. Future phases need to be accomplished much more efficiently, she said.

No one on council, however, made a motion to solicit proposals from other design firms immediately, potentially limiting the feasibility of meeting the deadlines with a new architect on board.