City project defended

Managing Editor
A West Auglaize Street woman provided Wapakoneta City Council members and city administrators with a 65-page document regarding the $2.1 million reconstruction project which includes the widening of the street from Blackhoof Street to West Pearl Street.
Kristin Doll presented the packet Monday to councilors which included traffic data collected by her family and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), information regarding trees to be culled and planted provided by Urban Forester Stephanie Miller and documents requested from Van Wert Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming, Wapakoneta Safety-Service Director Bill Rains and Wapakoneta Engineering Superintendent Mary Ruck.
Doll, who thanked city leaders for the opportunity to address councilors during the July 10 public hearing on the street reconstruction project, thanked them again for the opportunity to speak Monday and she provided them with the packet and a letter of support from her.
“Today I would like to take this second opportunity to express my support for the West Auglaize Street project and to clarify some glaring errors and misinformation provided to the public by a few well-meaning but misinformed citizens,” Doll said. “At this time, I would like to make sure that the citizens of Wapakoneta are provided accurate information and I think if they get that then they will be better equipped to understand and appreciate the scope and the magnitude of the West Auglaize Street project.”
ODOT awarded the city $1.84 million Small Cities Grant toward the $2.1 million street reconstruction project. Under the current plan, the city is to widen the street to 39 feet from 37 feet, which would provide parking on both sides of the street and wider lanes for street traffic.
Approximately 50 people attended a public hearing on July 10 at the Wapakoneta City Administration Building. Many expressed their thoughts regarding the width of the street, parking on both sides, the cutting down of trees in the tree lawn and needing additional city right-of-way property in front of their residences.
Citing statistics during her presentation Monday, Doll said the project would include cutting down 52 trees, including 42 which have been identified as dangerous or diseased. The project calls for cutting down 10 healthy trees, while removing and replanting nine trees. This leaves 38 trees of the original 99 trees to remain in the tree lawn, Doll said.
The project also calls for replanting 80 trees along the project.
Citing information from the city’s urban forester, the trees to be replanted would reach average heights between 40 and 60 feet, with species actually reaching 85 feet at times. They have been picked by Miller for the project and they resist disease and storm damage and are less dangerous for the storm sewer system.
Her family, which includes her husband and 4th Ward Councilor Chad Doll, conducted traffic counts for 30-minute periods during several times of the day and extrapolated that over an 18-hour period that 3,348 cars would pass in front of their house at 713 W. Auglaize St. and 4,183 on another day.
The ODOT study conducted Nov. 22, 2011, calculated 3,650 cars on West Auglaize Street.
She provided her findings after having talked with the Van Wert safety-service director about the Washington Street project in Van Wert. She learned the citizen group did not negotiate or advocate an 11-foot wide passing lane, but they sought a plan to eliminate the parking lane.
Doll advocated for the widening and redesign of the street which should improve the safety aspects of people crossing the street where Hamilton, West Mechanic and West Auglaize streets intersect.
“It is for all of these reasons that I hope you will continue the process forward and to promote the process so we can get all the benefits of this project,” Doll said, offering to share the information she has collected with local residents.
Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. thanked Doll for the presentation and addressed his fellow councilors on the issue.
“I have said this before but this is a subjective argument that these people make — it is an opinion,” Finkelmeier said. “It is a fact there will be a completely rebuilt street. It is a fact that we will separate the storm sewer and sanitary sewer. It is fact we couldn’t afford this project without the grant, and it is fact that you will have your curbs now.
“It is an opinion that the new trees won’t be good enough and that is the debate — when is a new tree good enough,” the councilor said. “I think when you have an urban forester hired by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources tell you these trees are fantastic for your purpose then you have to trust her professional opinion.”
Mayor Rodney Metz said having the information collected into one document should prove helpful to councilors and city residents.
“Her findings are about what I expected,” Metz said. “It is interesting to see her traffic count that her family did since it is so close to the other traffic counts that were performed and none of them were done during a special event at the schools or at the fairgrounds which would have skewed the figures.”
The mayor affirmed earlier comments by city administrators that to change the scope of the project could endanger the project.
“There are certain qualifications that must be met to be able to qualify and to receive the money,” Metz said. “We all know that since the grant award is very close and based on the current layout of the project and if we modify any aspects of the project that they have to re-evaluate the project, then we risk having to go through the entire process and the grant money.”