Council to remove street from list of historic brick pavements

Brick streets are pretty, hold historic value, but are buggers on a city with a tight budget.

That was pretty much the summation Thursday night when City Council, on first reading, voted 5 to 2 to have Court Street between Sixth and Seventh streets and Grafius Street between Hepburn and Market streets removed from those on a list to be preserved as brick.

If the ordinance is amended on May 16, during a final reading, it would allow Streets and Parks to use Community Development Block Grant money to remove the brick, store it for use on other brick streets and pave the streets.

That didn’t sit well with city Councilwoman Liz Miele or Councilman Jonathan Williamson who voted to keep the streets brick.

Williamson said he could understand the cost keep them in their present historic fashion, but believed the city would better be served by developing a long-term funding strategy or it might as well remove all of the brick streets. Miele said such streets serve an “interesting purpose and are more durable.”

But the administration viewed the costs as too high and the safety need as pressing.

“They are in deplorable condition, but are cost prohibitive to repair,” Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said. These particular streets also pose a public safety hazard and are damaging the plows when Streets and Parks Department personnel remove snow in winter, he said.

“In the best interest of the taxpayers, we believe these brick streets should be paved,” said William C. Wright, general manager of the Streets and Parks Department.

Estimated costs given two years ago to repair the brick portion of Court Street was between $750,000 and $1 million, he said. The city proposes using Community Development Block Grant money to remove the brick and place a seal coat over the street, repairing the curb, too, he said.

Some of the bricks that are taken out will be saved and stored for use elsewhere in the city, such as a portion of Rural Avenue, Wright said.

The plan, if approved in a final reading at the next council meeting, is to get the work done this year when the city is reconstructing about 25 other streets in the late summer and early fall before the asphalt plants close, he said.

Asked about the touchy subject of historic relevance of the brick streets, Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, chairman of the Public Works Committee, said he’d like to keep them, but they are a safety hazard and costing money by destroying city equipment.

Councilman Don Noviello said in this particular section the mosaic of utility cuts is the crux of the problem.

“I’m not opposed to brick,” Noviello said, adding the sections are “eyesores” as opposed to adding to the aesthetics. The work will include addressing the deteriorating curbline, he said.

The council takes up a second vote on the proposed change to the ordinance at its next meeting on May 16.