Farmington council wants Oakland Street project on hold

Farmington city officials on Monday put the brakes on a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) plan to expand the planned reconstruction of Oakland Street.

There’s no question the street between Grand River and Farmington Road needs work. Its pavement assessment rating, on a scale from 1 to 10, is a 2. The original cost of repaving the road and utility improvements was around $266,000, with the two entities splitting costs.

City Manager David Murphy said the plan now includes new sidewalks, taking down utility poles and burying lines, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements at Grand River/Liberty Street and the public parking lot at Oakland and Farmington Road, and landscaping. In addition, some streetscaping will improve the downtown “gateway” at Liberty and Grand River.

That bumped the cost to an estimated $660,000.

Council member Sara Bowman on Monday compared the plan to her home improvement project. What started with replacing cabinets, she said, led to replacing the stove, the flooring, and other improvements.

“I have a lot of hesitation,” she said. “We have a new millage that we haven’t sat down to talk about… I want a lot more discussion about where this money is going to come from.”

Mayor Steven Schneemann said the road project and parking/streetscape should be looked at separately.

“This didn’t evolve from a utility and ‘fix-it’,” he said. “This is the DDA looking at a project that was already going forward. The DDA’s goal has always been to improve the downtown, not just fix what’s broken.”

While city treasurer Chris Weber said funds are available for the project, council member Joe LaRussa pointed out the opportunity cost, not being able to take on other projects.

Council member Bill Galvin generally supported the project, because it addresses multiple needs, but felt costs could be mitigated. While the DDA would be covering more of the cost, he said, “when the DDA comes back to council in six to twelves months because they don’t have funds (for other projects), the council will be paying for this.”

Galvin also pointed out the DDA has received complaints that the existing streetscape isn’t well maintained. He said he wants to see a maintenance plan.

Schneemann said the city would pay upwards of $200,000 to repair Oakland Street; the additional work would cost another $50,000 in the cost-share. Extending the streetscape west to create more of a gateway, he said, is part of the downtown vision.

Officials agreed they need more information before making a decision, particularly about the city’s responsibility, any other projects that may be delayed if the proposal moves forward, and concerns raised by residents who live around the project area.

LaRussa and Bowman also said they want to see the city’s new Capital Improvement Plan before making a decision.

Council members will meet on Tuesday, January 29, at 6 p.m. to further discuss the project. Additional information and plan drawings are in the council packet, which is posted at farmgov.com.

CorrectionThe scope of the original Oakland Street project was incorrectly reported in the original version of this post.