Monday, January 29, 2001

Monmouth plan faces scrutiny

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — It's been talked about and planned for about 10 years, but City Manager Phil Ciafardini insists this is the year the $2.2 million project to remake the Monmouth Street business district will start.

        Of course, a year ago city officials were saying that the streetscape project — which includes new sidewalks and curbs, removal of all utility poles and overhead wires, and new landscaping — would be completed by the summer of 2001.

        Now, the city manager says construction will begin in April, which means putting a new face on Monmouth Street from Fifth Street to 11th Street will be finished in 2002. Depending on the weather, of course.

        “By the end of February, we will have a new package put together,” Mr. Ciafardini said. “There will be public meetings in February for property owners and residents to see the plans and make comments. But we want to start construction in April.”

        The project also includes opening Monmouth Street, which is now one way north from 11th Street to Third Street, to two-way traffic.

        That plan has drawn opposition from a number of business owners.

        In the past 12 months or so, there have been talks between the city and business/property owners on Monmouth Street about what parts of the project will work and what parts won't work, and about how much the work will cost the property owners.

        And there's the matter of some 700 new parking meters throughout the city, including Monmouth Street, proposed last year by Police Chief Tom Fromme.

        A lot of business owners don't like that idea, even though it would be performed by a private company at no cost to the city.

        City commissioner Jerry Peluso, who owns a grocery on Monmouth Street, has re peatedly said he is opposed to a streetscape project that requires the property owners to foot more than half the cost, as was originally proposed by the city manager in his budget report last fall.

        “We've gone over the numbers and tried to make some changes,” Mr. Ciafardini said. “What we are looking at now are the costs

        any other citizen would have to pay for work on their property. Everyone has to pay for new sidewalks, and for private electrical work. That's where we are now.”

        Mr. Ciafardini also emphasized that “two-way traffic (on Monmouth) is a priority to make the downtown business area a success.”

        Tom McQueen, who owns Uncle Charlie's Music at 835 Monmouth St., said he believes the upgrades proposed for the city's main street “will be gorgeous. I like the idea. But I think it depends on how much people like me who own the property on Monmouth Street are going to have to pay.”

        Mr. Ciafardini said that would depend on how much frontage was involved and what kind of upgrade to utilities inside the buildings was necessary.

        “For the sidewalks, we'll probably charge by the linear foot,” he said. “Obviously, the more sidewalk a business has, the more it will cost to replace it.”

        All electricity will be brought into the buildings underground or from the rear when the utility poles and lines are removed, depending on location of current meters.

        The city will work with the property owners to extend payment over a reasonable period of time, but the city manager said his staff was still finalizing the numbers.

        “We're applying for another Kentucky Renaissance City grant, and if we get more state money it will lower the amount each property owner will pay,” he said.

        The last Renaissance City grant application was for $1.4 million, and the city got $300,000, bringing the total public money available for the streetscape project to about $850,000.

        The parking meter proposal immediately drew fire from Monmouth Street businesses accustomed to open parking spaces on the street. Many complained that the meters would keep customers away.

        “There is no enforcement of two-hour parking limits on the street now,” said shop owner Peter Garrett. “There's no reason to think that a limit would be enforced if meters were installed, so people who work here would put money in the meters all day and we still wouldn't have any customer parking.”

        Mr. Ciafardini said the city continues to look at the possibility of additional off-street parking lots behind some of the Monmouth Street businesses to alleviate the parking concerns. But no specific parking plan has been proposed.


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