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Streetscape plans tangled in red tape

June 09, 2010 - It's time to play to play the waiting game, says Suzanne Perreault, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) executive director.

Getting a $500,000 Department of Transportation grant, which will fund the pending streetscape and Children's Park improvements, is taking longer than expected.

Project engineers talk with community members about the upcoming project at a DDA openhouse last month. Photo by Megan Collier (click for larger version)
"We're dealing with federal dollars, we have to go through red tape," Perreault said.

Plans originally called for an early June start date, but now project engineers say work might not begin until August.

Perreault says the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service will review the projects plans, with the opportunity to ask questions and potentially change items.

"We're still moving forward. We haven't run into any major roadblocks. The things we are running into are time-consuming red tape items that we have to deal with," said Perreault. "We had everything submitted by (Michigan Department of Transportation's) May 14 deadline, and now they're reviewing our final project."

Perreault noted that an August start date "is obviously so much later than what we were anticipating, but there are so many different factors that can play into it."

She added, "I want the community and business owners to know that the staff in this office is doing everything it can to get through this process."

As part of the DDA's efforts to make construction as easy as possible for businesses and patrons, Perreault says they made commitments to not work in the intersection of Flint and Broadway in the month of October. There also won't be construction in Children's Park during the gazebo concert series.

But those commitments could come with a price.

"Our concern is the more stipulations that we put onto the project, the more the cost is driven up," said Perreault.

As of right now, work at Flint and Broadway is slated to be done first with the rest of the repaving done later in the fall.

The DDA director also said pushing the project's start date into next year "is something we would consider."

"I'm very open-minded about what would have the least impact on businesses. As we move forward, it would be a good idea for the DDA and village to put together a pros/cons list of doing it now or asking for an April start date," she said.

But, Perreault noted, there isn't one start date that will make everyone happy.

Funding for both the streetscape and repaving portions of the project were finalized Feb. 22 when the village council approved a loan for $1.2 million from the village's water and sewer fund.†That money will be added to $575,000 in grants and money the Downtown Development Authority's been stashing for several years.

Grant money will cover Children's Park and the streetscape component, which would be items like the new sidewalk, new trees, amenities and flower planters, said Perreault. The rest of the funds will be locked up in repaving costs.

She says the DDA did look at bidding the project with alternatives to try to save some money, but the state squashed the idea.

"MDOT came back to us and said you can't bid with alternatives, so the whole project is lumped into what is being bid out," said Perreault.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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