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Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Despite opposition, New Bremen councilors will close section of canal

By Margie Wuebker
NEW BREMEN - Village councilors Tuesday night approved closing in a portion of the Miami and Erie Canal after considerable discussion on the matter.
After turning down bids on June 23 to enclose a 100-foot section on the north side of Monroe Street, the matter resurfaced and this time passed by a vote of 3-2 with Delores Stienecker and Craig Hoffman casting the dissenting votes.
Also against enclosing a portion of the canal is the New Bremen Historic Association, that had eight members attend the meeting with Larry Dicke serving as spokesman. He said the association's 800 members recognize the importance of the canal and its role in the community's development and expansion.
"We decided to go on the record," he said. "Nothing is ever too late; we are in favor of leaving it open."
The proposal to enclose a portion of the canal began months ago when contractors discovered the canal's soft ground on the north side was not capable of holding new concrete walls with cast iron posts and rope to match the renovated Lock One design across the street. Some also feared the walls could collapse, causing flooding of businesses and homes in the area.
"I've heard from people who never comment," councilor Dennis Burnell said on Tuesday. "They want the 100-foot section filled in and landscaped."
Burnell also said he was concerned about safety.
"We know about the problem and if we don't correct it correctly there could be problems in the future," he said.
Other councilors shared similar comments, with the exception of Stienecker, who feels the canal area should remain open for historical reasons, and Craig Hoffman, who maintains an open style is less costly.
Visitor Tom Wenning, who came for another agenda item, commented the Bolly's (Restaurant) Coffee Club wants it closed and transferred into parkland.
Mote Engineering of Greenville prepared estimates for various options ranging from $34,000 to $577,000. The enclosed option initially carried an $85,000 price tag. However, the cost has increased to $117,000 after test borings detected the presence of material similar to quicksand.
Village Administrator Wayne York explained a firm base is needed for piers to hold large pipes through which the canal water would flow after the canal is enclosed. Councilors approved the $117,000 option.

Lockkeeper's house:
NEW BREMEN - Village councilors on Tuesday approved bids for construction of the lockkeeper's house on the west side of Lock One, but not without bringing up the unexpected cost to the village.
Baumer Construction of Minster will serve as general contractor with a bid of $484,830 while the contract for plumbing, electrical and heating, air conditioning and ventilation went to Area Energy and Electric of Sidney with a bid of $158,500. A decision was made to forgo geothermal heating and air conditioning, which could add another $29,000 to the project cost.
Village Administrator Wayne York indicated construction could begin within 30 days of contract signing with completion set for early 2010.
The project, which came in at its $643,330 estimate, is being financed with a $522,000 enhancement grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation. The local historic association has raised the remaining money as required matching dollars.
Comments made during the planning process indicated there would be no cost to the village. However, New Bremen already has paid $2,000 for test borings and $450 for publication of legal notices. Additionally, there will be costs estimated at $6,000 or so to extend water lines to the building that will house offices of the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce and the Miami and Erie Canal Corridor Association as well as displays of canal-related artifacts.
Now it appears the village will have to pay $50,000 in architect's fees to Garmann/Miller Associates of Minster. The historic association had paid $30,000 of the amount but village officials learned within the past few days that neither grant money nor matching funds can be used for architectural purposes. York accepted the blame for the oversight.
"I have a problem with $50,000," councilor Craig Meyer said. "People are concerned about the canal costs."
Meyer suggested seeking more information from constituents before voting. However, that could mean losing the ODOT grant. He cast the lone dissenting vote on acceptance of the bids.
- Margie Wuebker
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