Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
By Margie Wuebker
Mayor wants public to speak up about canal enclosure
  NEW BREMEN - Mayor Jeff Pape wants citizen input regarding plans to enclose a section of the Miami and Erie Canal after village councilors rejected a resolution to seek bids for the project Tuesday night.
"It is crucial that we hear from the public," he said. "The current proposal runs around $85,000, but leaving that section of the canal open would cost a lot more (an estimated $150,000 to $223,000)."
Problems with that section developed last summer when the village and the New Bremen-New Knoxville Rotary Club moved forward with plans to develop Rotary Centennial Park along the 100-foot stretch of canal.
Contractors intended to begin construction of new concrete walls with cast iron posts and rope to match the renovated Lock One area across the street. They immediately discovered the soft ground was not capable of holding the walls as designed. Final results of test borings indicated the foundation and footers would have to be 20 feet deep. Projections from Mote Engineering of Greenville pegged the project cost a $577,000, far more than Rotary members anticipated.
Mote Engineering provided less costly options - the construction of a shallow retaining wall which would leave water visible, $150,000 to $223,000; an open grass canal similar to an area south of Lock One, $34,000 to $149,000; and the enclosed canal, $85,000.
In March, the less costly proposal for enclosure came down to a tie with Pape's vote to proceed breaking the deadlock.
There were no ties Tuesday night with councilors Delores Stienecker, Craig Hoffman and John Schwartz voting against seeking construction bids. Don Kuck and Craig Meyer endorsed the measure with councilor Dennis Burnell absent. Burnell earlier voted to enclose the section of canal located at the northwest corner of Washington (state Route 66) and Monroe (state Route 274) streets.
"I hope you people have a good plan because you just voted down what we voted on before," Pape said. "We need to get something done because residents are tired of seeing the eyesore."
Village officials spelled out the four proposals in the March newsletter and conducted a survey which drew just 42 responses from a community of 3,000. Twenty-one respondents wanted an open grass look while a like number favoring enclosure obtained by placing pipes to carry the water and then covering them with dirt.
Stienecker said people did not understand the options and therefore did not vote, calling so few replies "ridiculous" in a community the size of New Bremen.
Kuck asked "How much do you want to spend on this?" Meyer stated filling in the canal was the right thing, adding "We don't want to spend what we did across the street." The Lock One renovation, part of which was covered by an Ohio Department of Transportation grant, cost $600,000.
The topic will likely appear on council's July 14 agenda for further discussion and another vote.
Village administrator Wayne York reviewed the proposed enclosure plans prior to the vote. Designs prepared by Mote and Freytag Architects of Sidney show the ground shaped in the design of a dry canal bed. There would be a retaining wall created with original canal stones. Concrete piers would hold twin pipes carrying the water to a retaining pond. Once the work is completed, Rotarians would take over landscaping work.
York reiterated the possibility of the canal giving way in its present state remains a major concern. If that occurs, flood water would endanger buildings along the west side.
Pape also asked for citizen input after Schwartz proposed creation of a sledding hill at Bremenfest Park.
Youngsters currently use the canal bank near Lock One for wintertime sledding. However, the construction of a lockkeeper's house along the west bank eliminates such use.
"Kids from New Bremen go to Minster to use their sledding hill (at Four Seasons Park)," Schwartz said. "It would be nice to give them a place to sled here."
The councilor indicated the likely spot would be east of the tennis courts where a natural slope already exists.
No action was taken on the matter is hopes of gauging community support.
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