EL streets committee mulls what to do about Car Barn

EAST LIVERPOOL — Saying the city’s Car Barn is in bad condition, Service-Safety Director Brian Allen told the streets committee he would like city council to consider exploring the possibility of passing bonds to replace it.

The Car Barn was originally built to house trolley cars that served the area but has been used for many decades to house the city’s refuse/recycling and street department operations and equipment.

Allen said his plan is to demolish the entire structure, leaving intact the adjacent mechanic’s garage, and replacing the Car Barn with a steel pole barn type building that would include space for workers’ locker room, showers and their vehicles.

“I’m not looking at anything elaborate,” he told the committee, saying he would like to stay under $1 million for the total cost, adding, “Less is better.”

Allen said he has spoken to the USDA which administers municipal bonds and said there are currently “really attractive rates” for them at this time. Asked by Councilman Brian Kerr to explain how the bonds work, Allen said they are “like a loan guaranteed by the federal government that local investors can buy at a lower rate.”

A local architect is preparing plans for a replacement building at no charge to the city, according to Allen, who said they would include a truck wash attached to the building to maintain trucks.

Asbestos was removed from the Car Barn during the previous administration, alleviating that cost from the demolition, and Allen estimated between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of steel could be salvaged from the structure.

His plans also call for using some of the financing to build an actual salt storage facility on the former Riverview property rather than having it in the new structure, noting that about 20-30 percent of their salt stores are depleted annually from being stored in the old Car Barn due to water leakage.

Already, some materials are being stored in buildings on that property, he noted.

Council would have to approve the bond process, and Allen said if that were approved, the bidding process would have to be started before any construction could take place.

Kerr asked if the cost for a new Car Barn could be absorbed by cash reserves he understands exists in the refuse and recycling department, with Allen saying, “That’s up to you guys, but the interest rate on bonds is so low it is advantageous to us.”

Councilman John Mercer suggested it would be wise to “keep that cash in those funds as liquid as possible.”

The committee made no recommendation at this time.

Committee members did vote to forward for council’s consideration an ordinance authorizing the city to enter into an agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation for the first phase of repairs to the so-called “pipe bridge” along state Route 30.

The water line structure carries water from the water plant to the Thompson Avenue water tank and has seriously deteriorated over the years.

The agreement calls for ODOT to remove all debris, pipe insulation and the existing failing steel deck grating in what Allen said is phase one of a two-phase project to rebuild the structure.

He called it “another project long needed that’s not going to cost the city a dime.”

Allen reported that design plans have been approved for replacing the existing, non-functioning street lighting along the highway from East End to the cloverleaf area and said he expects the project to be put out for bid by July.

The city is responsible for 5 percent of the cost of that project, which includes all new LED lighting, new conduit and wiring, and Allen said the city’s share will be taken from the street department, although he didn’t have the figure available at the meeting.

A project to repair a falling concrete wall along Garfield Street is about 98 percent complete, Allen reported, saying a gravel road will be in place until spring when it will be paved.

Repairs were completed to two alleyways about which residents complained at the last council meeting, Allen reported. He said he does not want to spend much money on paving alleys until drainage problems can be addressed that cause the streets to deteriorate, adding that the storm water management plan is in the works.

Committee members again discussed the issue with trains stopping and blocking the Putnam Street crossing, with Kerr saying a train kept traffic, including school buses, blocked for two hours last week, with S.H. Bell opening its gates to allow buses through, which he said meant the company had to shut down its operations.

Allen said he fears the safety issue will be even more dire this summer when the Elizabeth Street Bridge is earmarked for demolition, meaning even emergency vehicles will have no way to access the Klondyke neighborhood at that point, although he emphasized the fire department has keys to S.H. Bell’s gates.

No solutions were reached after a lengthy discussion.