Landslip closes Maple Street Extension

Maple Street Extension, which runs between Fort Harmar Drive and Bellevue Avenue in the Harmar district has been closed due to a landslip that poses a threat to traffic along the narrow section of roadway.

“The street is closed and signs and barricades have been put up because of movement of the hillside there,” Jonathan Hupp, safety-service director, told city council’s streets and transportation committee Wednesday.

The street was also closed due to a similar landslip that occurred in the same area during 2011, and just north of that location a section of Bellevue Street, near the intersection with Lancaster Street, has been closed for a couple of years now because of the possibility of a landslip.

Grant funding is currently being sought to repair the Bellevue slip.

Eric Lambert, project manager with the city engineering department, noted the soil movement encroaching on the Maple Street Extension roadway is coming off of private property, meaning the city cannot go onto the property to do a proper fix of the landslip.

“But if we did, where would we get the money?” he asked. “Any repair would likely involve installation of some piers to help stabilize the hillside.”

Hupp said bicycles and pedestrians can use Maple Street Extension at their own risk, but vehicles will not be allowed to drive on the roadway.

City Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said the area is probably not safe for bicycles.

“You can see the whole hillside there is falling down,” he said.

City engineer Joe Tucker suggested sending a letter to the property owner about addressing the problem since the landslip is coming off his property.

“We’ve tried and know the federal government won’t pay to fix landslips, so why should the city pay to fix it?” he asked. “This would be a very expensive slip repair.”

Lambert added that the Maple Street Extension roadway itself may be holding up a landslip that could eventually move the street down onto Fort Harmar Drive.

“But we can’t know if that situation exists until we take some core samples of the ground in that area,” he said.

In other business Wednesday, the streets committee members discussed the possibility of increasing the fine from $50 to $150 for residents who do not keep sidewalks in front of their homes repaired.

City Law Director Paul Bertram said the current fine for violation of city code governing sidewalk maintenance is between $5 and $50, which was set in 1957. He suggested raising the fines to a minor misdemeanor level of up to $150.

Three committee members agreed, including Vukovic, Councilman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, and Councilwoman Kathy Downer, D-at large, who chairs the streets and transportation committee.

Councilmen Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, Harley Noland, D-at large, and Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, did not support the fine increase.

“The city needs to get its own house in order first,” Kalter said, noting there are many areas of sidewalk for which the city is responsible that have not been repaired.

Noland added that one constituent who lives near the Camp Tupper area told him the city should not be fining anyone until the city sidewalks at that location are repaired.

Also on Wednesday, Harmar area resident Joe Martin asked council’s permission to, at his own expense, install two new streetlights and upgrade an alley and sidewalk on city property near his home along Gilman Avenue, adjacent to the Harmar Elementary School property.

The committee members agreed to accept Martin’s offer.

“This is the kind of donation we really appreciate,” Vukovic said. “And we rarely have enough money left from our annual paving program to do alley repairs in the city.”

Finally on Wednesday, Noland, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee, asked Bertram to develop legislation allowing Tucker to solicit requests for qualifications from architectural firms to provide engineering services for the renovation of the ground floor of the National Guard Armory building on Front Street.