Bob Bianchi

Bob Bianchi, the City of Mansfield engineer, discusses Tuesday night with City Council a plan to convert Diamond Street to two-way traffic in downtown Mansfield.

MANSFIELD -- A proposal to convert Diamond Street to two-way traffic through downtown Mansfield was unveiled Tuesday night to Mansfield City Council.

The $360,000 conversion proposal is another part of the Mansfield Rising downtown reinvestment plan, which suggested the city adopt and implement a complete streets policy in the downtown area. 

It would be similar to Mulberry Street, one-way southbound for many years, which was was converted to two-way traffic in August 2019.

City engineer Bob Bianchi told Richland Source on Tuesday afternoon the administration does not to want to impede traffic moving through the city. The conversion would run between 1st Street on the south to Main Street on the north.

"We understand people need to get from point A to point B. but we also want to do that with the idea of making downtown more accessible," he said. "Downtown is becoming more of a destination, so we want to make sure we have that at the forefront as we consider projects.

"Our goal in the end is if you want to go northbound on Diamond and southbound on Mulberry that the traffic signals would be timed so that you could drive the speed limit and most of the time get through downtown," the engineer said.

"That's the point. You want to get through downtown. But then also, people want to get TO downtown. Our goal is to accommodate both of those," Bianchi said.

Burns Meier

Mansfield City Council members Laura Burns (1st Ward) and Cheryl Meier (2nd Ward) listen to a presentation from city engineer Bob Bianchi on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Tim Theaker said the conversion proposal is still in the "planning and preliminary" stage. A public meeting is tentatively planned Feb. 11 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.

"We want to ask the public and, specifically, the businesses along Diamond Street to come and see the plan. Tell us what you think," Bianchi said, adding that public comment led to positive revisions in the original plans to convert Mulberry Street.

 "We want to review it and continue to review it," Theaker said. "There are always better ways to do things."

No general fund money would be spent on the conversion, Theaker said.

Instead, he said, funds for the project would come from four sources -- the permissive sales tax, the street fund, road resurfacing fund and the Downtown Improvement Fund, which began when City Council approved a $5 increase in motor vehicle registration fees in May of 2018.

That increase generates about $220,000 annually and was used in 2019 to help fund a downtown beautification effort, the Mulberry Street conversion and the addition of a mid-block, brick crosswalk on Fourth Street between Main and Diamond streets.

Davenport

Mansfield City Council member Alomar Davenport (4th Ward) asks city engineer Bob Bianchi a question Tuesday evening.

The Downtown Improvement Advisory Board discussed the conversion during its meeting last week and members expressed support for the work.

Theaker said the city wants to ensure the conversion doesn't negatively impact the burgeoning Airport Industrial Park on the city's north side.

"The industries out there are continuing to grow. A lot of the traffic comes from the south, comes through town to the industrial park. We want to make sure we don't impeded those folks going to work or coming home at night," Theaker said.

Bianchi said legislation could be prepared for council in late February or March. If approved, likely in April, concrete work could begin in May, followed by paving in July and in signal installation in August, if the signal poles are available.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Meier asked Bianchi how the conversion would affect parking spaces.

The engineer said there are about 60 on-street parking places on Diamond Street, though only 38 are metered. He said the plan allows for 36 on-street spaces and that a lot with with 26 additional, free two-hour spaces may also be available.

4th Ward Councilman Alomar Davenport asked how long Diamond Street would have to be closed for the project.

Bianchi said paving would be done at night and that the street would likely only have to be closed for one full day at the end to complete striping and signage.

Also on Tuesday, council rejected by a 6-2 vote an ordinance that would require council approval of all contracts over $24,999 until the final 2020 budget is approved at the end of March. The current limit is $50,000. 

The change, sponsored by At-Large Council David Falquette, was discussed during council caucus on Jan. 7. It cited "immediate necessity for ensuring fiscal responsibility before the final budget is adopted." The city is operating under a temporary budget approved in December.

Van Harlingen

Mansfield City Council Finance Committee Chair Jon Van Harlingen listens during Tuesday evening's meeting.

Finance Committee chairman Jon Van Harlingen said he agreed with the spirit of the ordinance, but said it would go too far and would hamstring the day-to-day operations of the finance department.

Finance Director Linn Steward said her department has opened 57 purchase orders related to normal operations already this year of more than $25,000, each of which would need council approval under the change. She said purchase orders are considered contracts.

Falquette and 1st Ward Councilwoman Laura Burns were the only votes  in favor of the change.

Before the council caucus session began, its claims committee approved a $4,839.10 damage claim for Mitchell Kirkbride, 295 Westgate Drive. The payment is for a sewer backup at the residence that occurred in November after a city work crew damaged the sewer line while working on a water line at the site. A full council vote on the claim will come in February.

In other action Tuesday, council:

-- approved its 12 standing committee assignments for 2020-2021, each of whom has three members.

-- approved bills that would allow for road resurfacing and striping during 2020.

-- approved a resolution honoring recently retired Mansfield police officer Jeffrey Gillis.

--approved an ordinance accepting a $4,500 donation from the Richland County Foundation's Richard and Lorraine Shrilla Fund to be used for improvements to Cyclops Field on the city's north side.

-- heard a concern from Lonnie Crawford, 235 E. Arch St., about city laws regarding trash in the city. Crawford said many city residents don't put trash in cans, leaving them by the street in bags that are ripped open by dogs, spreading trash throughout the city. Law Director John Spon said there are no requirements that residents use trash cans, but said he would investigate to see what other ordinances may be applied.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"