About 50 people, including a number of city leaders and property owners in the downtown area, attended the latest informational meeting on the major downtown infrastructure project that will happen in 2020 and 2021 in Nevada. The meeting was held at City Hall on Tuesday, June 18.
The infrastructure project, estimated at close to $9 million, is one of the largest community projects ever planned by the city of Nevada. “This will change our community for a long time,” said Mayor Brett Barker.
Barker shared that a steering committee has been meeting regularly to discuss the project, and once again, city leaders wanted to bring property owners and business people who will be impacted together to learn more about what’s ahead.
City Engineer Larry Stevens, of Howard R. Green, did most of the presenting, reminding those present that the first informational meeting was held about a year ago, and work behind the scenes has been going on for many months.
“We’ve been in almost all of the buildings (in the 11-block project area of the downtown),” he said.
For background, he shared that this project is mainly focused on infrastructure. Everything, from building front to building front in the downtown area, will be torn out as new sanitary sewer and water lines are put in, streets are repaved and new sidewalks with ramps for ADA compliance to all buildings will be constructed.
Stevens shared that he had doubts about whether this project would ever really come to fruition, due to the major amount of work and expense, but because of the aging lines underneath the streets and alleys, he told those present that the project is important for Nevada’s future.
Some of the main points of interest from the meeting are as follows:
• Traffic light replacement
The city’s only traffic light will be replaced with four-way stop signs. Stevens explained that traffic studies were completed at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Sixth Street, showing the traffic volume to be way below what it would need for a traffic light recommendation. Also, he said, cost of a new set of traffic lights could add up to quarter million dollars ($250,000) to the project.
• Drainage improvements
Along Sixth Street, Stevens said the new design will allow for drainage to be at the back of cars as they are parked. This will eliminate the ponding of water that occurs next to the curb.
• Bigger parking spots, but a few less of them
The downtown project committee has recommended that parking spots in the downtown be made longer and wider. This will help with the big trucks that often hang out into the middle of the road, and will give more room between parked cars. There will also be a number of handicapped parking spaces added to meet ADA requirements. Overall, the downtown area will lose 15 parking spaces, seven due to ADA requirements, a few because of increased spacing between and a few due to the new sidewalk “bump outs” that will be put on (see next section of story for more on bump outs). It was noted by the city administrator that the city is looking into a possible location for a downtown parking area. He could not say at this time where that is, but said it would replace a building that may no longer be needed in the downtown area.
• Bump outs
As city officials showed designs of the new bump outs that will be part of the new sidewalks in the downtown, there were a number of criticisms by those at the meeting. Bump outs are areas that come out at the corners. “It’s unusable space, but we’re going to make it usable,” said Stevens. For one thing, he said it provides safety by giving pedestrians an area to get out to the street and see what’s coming, as well as shortening the pedestrian crossing of the street at the corners. It also will allow more sidewalk space for many of the ADA ramps that will be required for businesses.
Some people in the meeting raised concerns about the bump outs, such as making it harder for snowplows and for turning trucks/semis. Stevens said they have done turn tests at the corners and they still will meet the necessary requirements for all vehicles. In fact, he said, “the guidelines would allow the downtown area to go even less” with space at the corners. As for snow removal, Mardesen said it will mean the street department will need to rethink its snow removal routine and remove snow at corners in a different and faster way than what they do now. “It’s something we’ll be working through,” he said.
• Ramps and ADA accessibility
A large requirement of the downtown infrastructure project is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Right now, even though the city had made improvements through the years to its sidewalks with ramps, Stevens said, “Many intersections don’t have the right slopes… Quite honestly, this needs to be done and the bump outs really help us meet these requirements,” he said. Photos and graphics of how the ramps will look in front of businesses and the black railings that will be needed with them were shown. Many businesses will have a landing in front of their business with a ramp at one side and steps at the other. It was asked if businesses could instead put ramps inside their buildings, and Stevens said any business with steps in front of it now that wants to make an interior ramp should contact him to discuss that possibility.
• Storm Sewer and Sanitary Sewer
This project will see all new storm and sanitary sewer lines put in for the business district. One of the main things every property owner in the project area must do, Stevens said, is hire a plumber. All sewer services will now come in from the front (some presently come in at the rear of the building). “All water will now come in from the front of the buildings,” Stevens said. Connection of new services is the main reason property owners need to hire a plumber and talk with city officials in advance of the project’s kickoff.
Building and Zoning Official Shawn Cole said the plumber will need to cut a hole in the floor to bring the new sewer line in. That plumber will then need to hook up your sewer service. “The sooner you get planning on this, the better,” Cole said, and he urged everyone to hire a local plumber. “We will give you as much warning as we can on (when the sewer lines will be reconnected),” Cole said.
Mardesen said the city is actually going a little further than code requires on helping property owners with their water hookups. While code says the property owners are responsible for anything from the main to their building, “we’re absorbing some of that cost in getting it from the main to your building,” he said.
Cole said the process for replacing lines will be to dig up old lines as they put in the new lines.
• Streetlights and Electrical
Stevens noted that Nevada’s present lighting on main street was probably the best of what was available when it was put in. But now, LED lighting is the most energy-efficient type of lighting and that will be what the city puts in next. Also, he said, as street lighting is put in, “we want to minimize uplight so we won’t disturb upper-level apartments.”
The project committee has concluded they want light poles similar to what is on main street now. Each pole will have a flag holder, and on some poles they are planning to have 240-volt connections for vendors that might come to the main street area.
This part of the project, which is not pertaining to infrastructure, will be dependent on remaining budget, Stevens noted. But he said that the type of pavers and designs that are now in front of City Hall, are what the committee wishes to continue throughout the downtown area. Stevens was asked if the new pavers could be “not slippery,” as the current brick stamped part of the sidewalks can be. He said the pavers in front of City Hall are not slippery like the old stamped design in other parts of the downtown.
• A few more project details
The project is anticipated to start on Sixth Street at I Avenue and work its way north, with no more than two blocks under construction at one time.
Sidewalks will be the last thing torn out and replaced, to allow for the least amount of disruption to people getting into businesses.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to minimize your inconvenience,” Stevens said, “…but you’re going to be impacted.” He believes, however, “it’s going to be worth it.”
Mayor Barker encouraged businesses to plan now to make their back entrances to their buildings as accessible as possible for people, as that might be the best way into some businesses during parts of the construction.
Sloan agreed. “Our intent is that no one has to close (their business for any amount of time).”
City officials noted that they plan to hold another update meeting with property owners and business people in the fall.