At a January 28, 2016 Town Council “work session” Jovi Alves and Bryan Grover of A&M Concrete, at Council’s request, reported at length on the status of construction and recurring concerns about inconveniences facing residents, business people, schools and visitors as the Town’s so-called “Washington Street Project” moves into its next, and arguably most disruptive stages.
According to council minutes, Mr. Alves told the group, the “ . . . reason he asked to make this report was that “they were experiencing issues with pedestrians and school bus traffic;” that “while working on Madison Street, they had to close a section of it;” and, “there were a lot of angry people who were trying to get to the Hill School.”
The next three phases of construction should bring even more disruption, with major changes in traffic patterns, including one-lane traffic governed by automatic stoplights, and the blockage of major intersections.
Three Phases; Three Months Each
According to A&M’s Bryan Grover each stage or “section” of the construction work will require “roughly three months to complete. . . . “
The first section will impact the area between The Plains Road and Pendleton Street.
The second will cover the area between North Pendleton and Madison Streets.
The third will include Liberty, Hamilton and Jay Streets.
One Way on Route 50: 24/7
According to A&M’s Grover, during the first phase, the temporary traffic light “would be located in front of the first building past Pendleton Street for traffic that was westbound.”
This, he said, “ . . . would only allow for one-way traffic on Route 50 on a full-time basis.
Grover noted that east-bound traffic on Route 50 would be stopped by the temporary signal at The Plains Road; when the light turned green, the traffic would move into the west bound lane until past the construction; then it would move back into its proper lane. There would, in other words, still be two-way traffic on Route 50, taking turns sharing a single lane.
Despite having “secured state-of-the-art traffic signals” which use sensors “to pick up the cars” as they approach, Grover speculated “ . . . that the first few days would be difficult as they adjusted the timing of the signal.
“Another challenge” will be “to coordinate with the existing “Madison Street traffic light.” Grover noted, “ . . .that he could not guarantee there would not be traffic back-ups as that was a timed signal.
When Council member Kevin Hazard asked directly whether “this new traffic pattern would be in effect twenty-four hours per day, including rush hours. Mr. Grover confirmed it would.”
Crews, it was noted, will “ . . be working on one side of the street at a time . . . and there would always be one-way traffic . . . controlled by the temporary traffic signal,” he said. There will be “ . . . no parking on either side of the street during this time.”
Timing and Delays
In response to a question from Middleburg Police Chief A. J. Panebianco, Grover reported that the installation of the temporary traffic lights had originally been set for February 15
“An issue with the manufacturer of the bricks,” designed for paving the Town’s new sidewalks and crosswalks, Grover said, now meant that the bricks would “not be available until the first or second week of April.” He promised that he would give the Town at least a week’s notice of the date the lights would be installed.
Pressed by Council member Bundles Murdock, Grover “reiterated that the latest date he had,” for the beginning of phase 1, “was the second week of April.
He also noted “that he was trying to find another source for the bricks.”
When Council member Mark Snyder asked how the brick problem would “affect the end date for the project,” Grover reminded him “that the project must be completed by the beginning of November” or penalties, so-call “liquidated damages” would be imposed.
Grover noted, “…that the amount of the damages was high enough that he did not want to pay them.”
The plant that manufactured the bricks originally called for, it was noted, had “shut down.” When Town Administrator Martha Semmes asked “whether A&M had experienced any luck finding another brick source. Mr. Grover confirmed they had not.”
He noted, however, that comparable “modular” brick was available but was half an inch smaller than those called for in the contract specifications.
According to Grover VDOT’s project engineer, whose sign-off was required for the work to progress, “was dead set on using what was in the specifications, but that they were “working with VDOT to change the specifications.”
Some Business at a Standstill
During some phases of the construction and along some storefronts, council minutes continue, “ businesses would be at a standstill” as sidewalks “ all the way to the base of the buildings” will be removed and replaced.
The scale of such disruption, A&M representative noted, would vary, “block by block.”
To the greatest degree possible, Alves told Council “ . . . there would be ongoing into the buildings” and that he would work with each business to “identify a loading/unloading zone for the business deliveries.”
Town Council, Staff and Police have resolved to continue work closely citizens and local businesses to minimize disruption during construction. Ongoing consideration is being given to free parking, optimizing short-term parking, developing new signage and other measures.
Council Member Shea also strongly suggested “Town staff encourage the businesses to talk to each other about how they could help each other through the construction.”
Above and Beyond
Mayor Davis formally thanked the Town staff for “taking such good care of the town during the snow storm.” Town Administrator Semmes, Town Clerk North and Economic Development Coordinator Pearson were singled out for their efforts to “keep the citizenry informed.”
Chief Panebianco, Lieutenant Prince and Facilities & Maintenance Supervisor Simms, Davis noted, “stayed through the worse part of the storm to make sure everyone was safe, as did Stuart Will, of IES.
Council members Shea and Hazard noted that Safeway’s store manger and long-time employee Elizabeth Dash volunteered to stay in town and keep the Safeway store open Davis suggested a letter be sent to Safeway’s corporate headquarters to thank those individuals.
New Pink Box Agreement
Town Administrator Semmes and Melanie Mathews, of the National Sporting Library and Museum met to discuss the development of a new Memorandum of Agreement, replacing the existing lease governing the Town’s use of Pink Box. Among other positive developments, she noted, the historic building is now tax exempt, which means that Middleburg will “no longer have to make tax payments on the building.”
Snow Removal Disaster Relief
Semmes also reported that she has been working on an application for $28,000 in “disaster relief” from FEMA and had already fielded questions on the submission.
Costs associated with removing snow from the latest major storm cost the Town roughly $67,000, she said.
The Town’s snow removal budget is currently $50,000.
There are, Semmes noted, “enough funds in the Contingency Reserve to handle this and advised Council that she would be presenting budget amendments to them.”
She reiterated that, in her view, there was no need for Council “to appropriate additional funds as there was enough money in the budget – it just needed to be moved” from “contingency” to the snow removal budget.
Inadequate Water Line Maps
While trying to address recent water line leaks and other issues on Sycamore Street and Blue Ridge Avenue, Stuart Will, of IES, discovered that the water shut off valves that should have made addressing the problem easy, “were not where they were shown” on the Town’s current maps.
Because the maps were not correct, he said, it was impossible to tell Town Staff which citizens to inform about their water being cut off as the problems were addressed.
Asked by Council member Kevin Hazard whether Will was “updating the maps as he found these items,” Will said he was “making notes on them” and hoped “ the maps would be redone entirely” at some point.
New Email Addresses
The official email addresses for members of Middleburg’s Town Council and Staff have all been changed.
All the new e-mail addresses now take the form first initial followed by last name @middleburgva.gov
Mayor Davis’s new address, for example, is now firstname.lastname@example.org
For a complete list see: http://www.middleburgva.gov/Contact_Town_Staff.html
Treasurer’s Report Delay
Middleburg’s new Town Treasurer, Ashley Bott, reported that “she was continuing to clean-up issues and reported that there was a lot of data going back to July that needed to be entered.”
According to Council documents, “She expressed a desire to provide Council with a timeframe for providing a financial report; however, she advised that she did not know what she would encounter.”
Bott told Council, “ that the data entry was easy; however, researching where items came from and where they must go would take time.”
Bott said she was now “ . . . in the process of gathering information on a new system.
Congress People in the Snow
Chief of Police Panebianco reported on the number of U.S. Congressmen who were accommodated in Middleburg during the last major snowstorm.
According to Officer Heather Fadely, he said, “there were around seventy.” The Chief noted that he received “a letter of gratitude from the Capitol Police complimenting Officer Fadely on how she performed her duties” and that they were “ grateful for the Department’s support and were impressed with the Town’s snow removal efforts.