Thursday, November 09, 2000

Main St. project rejected

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A raucous crowd of 100-plus Main Street residents and business owners persuaded a majority of City Council members Tuesday to oppose state plans to rebuild the thoroughfare.

        The Ohio Department of Transportation recently presented four options for the 2-mile project that would take 13 to 19 months and close varying amounts of Main Street.

        “It's going to shut down the city,” Mayor James Mills said Wednesday.

        He is one of four council members who told Tuesday night's crowd that he would support stopping the project if ODOT does not come up with a plan that improves access to Main Street during construction.

        “If we can do it one block at a time, maybe the state will stay with us and help us,” said Mr. Mills, who worked for ODOT for 38 years before retiring. “If they don't, I think the people of Lebanon are willing to do it ourselves.”

        Council members Jane Davenport and Ben Cole said they no longer support the ODOT project as presented, and Mark Flick had already opposed it.

        But City Manager James Patrick said Wednesday he's still hopeful Lebanon can reach a compromise with ODOT to save the project, in the works for 30 years.

        The state has veto power over how the $10 million project is executed, but the city can decide to cancel the whole deal. It would lose federal and state money, however, and residents would end up paying for all work on Main Street themselves, pointed out Councilman James Reinhard, a supporter of the project.

        Another supporter, Councilwoman Amy Brewer, walked out of Tuesday night's council work session after members of the audience became rude. Emotions ruled, and profanities flew, several observers said.

        Main Street badly needs work, all sides agree. The storm drains have collapsed, and the road has a hump down the middle of it.

        But merchants say any of ODOT's four construction options will shut down businesses — not just those on Main Street but also tourist-oriented downtown shops and restaurants. Even Lebanon's sacred cow, the Golden Lamb Inn, could be imperiled, general manager Paul Resetar said last week.


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