By: Kyle Roberston
Many citizens of Ithaca agree that Old Elmira Road needs renovations, but the cost of updating the road to the complete street local officials want is proving difficult to swallow.
In a meeting at the Tompkins County Public Library on Jan. 31, members of the Board of Public Works addressed residents as they laid the ground work for their proposal.
Board member Tim Logue explained the project and said that construction would be a significant undertaking.
The problem is that under current town charter law, property owners along Old Elmira Road will be responsible for much of the cost of renovations, including 100 percent of adjacent sidewalks and 50 percent of new curbing that could add to bills between $1,000 and $57,000.
Residents affected by these regulations have voiced a number of concerns about the feasibility and impact of the project.
One man, the owner of an auto repair shop on Old Elmira Road, said the high price tag of construction could put him in serious financial trouble.
“I’m a small business man. I’m a self-employed, one man show,” he said. “Thirty grand is going to wreck me. People toss numbers around like it doesn’t matter. It matters to me and it matters to my family because this is a lousy economic time to table this kind of measure.
Another resident, owner of Pudgie’s Pizza shop, said he fears liability for accidents as traffic on the road increases.
“When one of my customers pulls in and gets rear-ended, welcome to America. Somebody’s getting sued. The likelihood is they’ll be after you more than me, but they’ll be after all of us. They’ll sue all of us,” he said.
Brenda West, director of the Ithaca Housing Authority, said drainage problems on the road also need to be addressed.
“Obviously one of my severe concerns has to do with the flooding that happens at Titus Towers anytime we receive excessive rain or rain for even sometimes over a short period of time,” West said. “On many occasions, I’ve been faced with the near evacuation of 250 senior citizens at that building.”
While they promised to take these suggestions into consideration, the Board is under pressure to make a decision soon. The $680,000 grant from New York’s Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council — making the road plan possible — is due to expire at the end of this year. With construction time at potential delays, this puts the project on a tight schedule.
Logue also said that unless the charter was revised, any change in price assessments for residents would be unlikely. Final design plans are due to the town council in March, with construction to begin over the summer.