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Franklin Street closure not for paving

SALEM — City utility workers closed Franklin Street from South Lincoln to South Lundy for a while Thursday, but the closure had nothing to do with the still pending paving project.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart explained that when a new, larger sewer line was installed on the street last summer, the service line for a home that was vacant at the time apparently didn’t get connected to the new line.

The home in the 500 block is now occupied and the lack of a connection was discovered when the sewer service couldn’t be used. Weingart said there’s no cost to the homeowner since it was the responsibility of the contractor to hook up all service lines.

The issue wasn’t noticed until now since no one lived in the residence at that time, he said.

The fact that the paving of the street had not been done yet was apparently to the city’s advantage in this situation, since the street had to be dug up to hook up the sewer service.

According to Mayor John Berlin, the section of Franklin between Lincoln and South Broadway would have been repaved several years ago, but the street department and utilities department have been working together to try to schedule projects to prevent a newly paved street from getting dug up for a water or sewer line replacement.

The utilities department replaced both the water and sewer lines on that section of Franklin last summer and the plan was to have the street paved after the project was completed last fall. The city received $100,000 from the Columbiana County Commissioners through Community Development Block Grant funds, with the city to cover the rest, to repave both Franklin and Railroad streets.

The bids, though, came in too high and the decision was made to rebid the paving project in the spring, which resulted in lower bids in March. R.T. Vernal submitted the low bid for $143,881, but then the coronavirus caused a delay.

City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said the holdup recently has been waiting for the concrete subcontractor to get workers back to work. Apparently they’re back working, but projects have been backed up. The concrete work to install the handicapped accessible ramps at the intersections has to be done before R.T. Vernal has the street surface ground down and then paved. Once the work begins, it’s not expected to take long.

Kenst doesn’t know for sure when the project will get going, but the contractors have been told by Howells & Baird, the engineers on the project, that the money must be used by the end of August. He’s hoping that will impress upon them the need to get the job done soon.

He’s been getting phone calls from residents and Kenst said he’s telling them “I’m just as anxious to get the project completed as you are.”

“We’re trying our best to push on this thing to get it done,” Berlin said.

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