Monessen cites infrastructure woes
Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis expressed concerns Monday about infrastructure problems.
At Monday's work session, council received information on two major road repair projects, causing Mavrakis to repeatedly ask how the city would pay for them.
City engineer Anthony Vitale provided council with three options to repair the Reed Avenue viaduct in the wake of an inspection by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The chief concern is a small area under the bridge where the metal underside has deteriorated, exposing concrete. Vitale said that as vehicles cross the viaduct, vibrations could cause concrete to fall.
The bridge is structurally sound, he said.
The least-expensive option – which Vitale called a “Band-Aid approach” – would involve a $1,575 repair that would provide “a nine- to 12-month fix” to the 40-year-old bridge.
The viaduct eventually needs repairs to at least six spots at an estimated cost of $850,000, said Vitale, adding the project would involve replacement of the bridge deck.
Councilwoman Lucille D'Alfonso said the city should at least pay for the temporary repair so the viaduct does not have to be closed.
Vitale said that without major work, more problems will arise.
“The bridge has a life span to it, and the further along we go, the more repairs there will need to be,” Vitale said.
He said the least expensive option, “would make it safe until we could ascertain some funds to do the bigger one.”
“But it's better than a $5 million new bridge,” Vitale said.
Council discussed plans to pave lower Ninth Street.
Street department supervisor Leonard Billy suggested the city acquire asphalt to pave the road, which is closed because of a nearby sewer project.
Billy called on council to rent a paving roller, which could be used for other much-needed paving projects.
After the work session, Billy said lower Ninth Street could be opened to one-way traffic and upper Ninth Street, which is open to two-way traffic lanes, could be restricted to one-way traffic in the opposite direction.
Mavrakis expressed concern that motorists are making illegal and dangerous sharp turns from Schoonmaker Avenue onto Sixth Street.
Council debated whether to pull all six street department workers off their regular duties in October to perform paving work, which could take two to three days.
Mavrakis continually asked where the city would get money to pay for the street projects and others.
He complained that the city is burdened by expenditures “from the past administration,” including the $500,000 City Park amphitheater project.
Mavrakis apologized to Councilwoman Patty Bukowski for telling her to keep quiet during last month's council meeting.
He said brick walkways around the park are “a lawsuit waiting to happen” and that too much grant money has been tied up in the amphitheater.
“I apologize for my outburst, but I do not apologize for my position on the amphitheater,” Mavrakis said. “Where are you going to tell people to park, and how are they going to be able to walk down?”
Mavrakis said the city does not have money to pay for needed repairs to the municipal complex.
According to Billy, the city has approximately $25,000 left for amphitheater work, but it is not enough to repair bricks damaged by weather and tree roots.
“The ship is sinking. ... The last administration kicked the can down the road and that's what we're stuck with,” Mavrakis said.
Bukowski said, “We wouldn't be looking at the park under normal circumstances.”
Councilman Josh Retos interjected, saying federal Community Development Block Grant money can only be used for certain projects – even projects for which he did not agree.
Retos said he is not willing to return grant money for the amphitheater project to the federal government.
“We all know the hand we were dealt and the amphitheater is a sore spot for some on council, but we can't change the past,” Retos said. “We're stuck with this project. Let's get this done and move on.”
In other business:
• D'Alfonso said the state Department of Environmental Protection wants the city to place “No dumping” decals on approximately 3,400 catch basins. Billy said nearly 2,000 of them are in need some kind of repair.
• No. 1 Fire Chief Joe Altemare asked council to approve a proposal to host the Western Pennsylvania Fireman's Convention in either 2015 or 2016. The department hosted the 2012 event, which Altemare called “a great fundraiser” and a boon for the local economy.
• Altemare asked council to purchase directional signs for the public safety building.
• After the meeting, code enforcement officer Donald “Buzzy” Byron told Mavrakis he planned to submit a letter of resignation Tuesday.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.
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