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HOMES, SCHOOL FUNDS IN JEOPARDY

Ottawa Hills council puts off decision on Secor Road plan

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    At a heavily attended Ottawa Hills city council meeting at Hope Lutheran Church, officials voted to table for 30 days a vote on a proposal from the city of Toledo to alter Secor Road. The proposal would put a dozen homes in jeopardy and potentially mean a loss of school funds.

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    The intersection of Secor Road and Kenwood Boulevard.

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    As city clerk-treasurer Eric Shreve listens, councilman Rex Decker fields questions from the public.

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Ottawa Hills officials postponed deciding whether to reconstruct Secor Road to see if they can work out an agreement with Toledo that appeases the vocal opponents to widening the crash-prone roadway.

Ottawa Hills Village Council voted 4-2 Monday night to table for 30 days action on the hotly debated joint project, which needs approval from both municipalities to move forward.

Toledo officials have proposed widening the road from West Bancroft Street to Markway Road and adding medians, turn lanes, and roundabouts to address traffic and safety concerns. The widening would put about a dozen homes in Ottawa Hills in jeopardy, and with it more than $50,000 in annual property tax revenue the local school district counts on.

That proposal would cost about $11.3 million — which would be funded mostly through grants and cost Ottawa Hills about $98,000 overall.

“Everybody has heard loud and clear that the current proposal is unacceptable,” Ottawa Hills Mayor Kevin Gilmore said. “The question is, can we work something else out?”

Monday’s vote to table a decision comes after the three-member Ottawa Hills streets committee voted unanimously March 3 to reject Toledo’s proposal after hearing opposition from residents on both sides of Secor.

“Subsequent to that, we’ve had a chance to talk to some people and determine that perhaps we do have some time to negotiate with Toledo, and we’d like to negotiate with Toledo on some changes,” said Councilman Rex Decker, who chairs the streets committee.

Many in the audience of about 60 at Hope Lutheran Church on Secor Road expressed skepticism that Toledo officials will compromise.

Ottawa Hills resident Ann Albert asked council members to emphatically reject the option that would demolish a dozen homes and build roundabouts, but council members couldn’t promise homes would be saved. They don’t have a set counter proposal to bring to the city.

School board member Corey Hupp then asked to have a seat at the negotiating table with Toledo to ensure the small school district won’t lose any property tax funds once a decision is made.

“This decision and the losing of these houses would impact the school much more than it would the village,” Mr. Hupp said.

But council members wouldn’t grant Mr. Hupp’s request, saying too many players would complicate negotiations.

“I would submit that we can handle our job, you handle yours,” Councilman Jack Straub told Mr. Hupp. “From now on, I would suggest that you stick to your own business.”

Mr. Straub’s comments were met with loud boos from audience members, who again implored their council members to guarantee no Ottawa Hills homes would be torn down.

Officials and residents in both municipalities agree Secor Road is unsafe.

Toledo officials commissioned a safety study by DGL Consulting Engineers which found there were 199 crashes on the roadway from 2013 through 2015. 

None of the crashes were fatal, but 68 percent caused property damage and 32 percent caused injury.

A second study, this one commissioned by Ottawa Hills officials and done by Columbus-based Burgess & Niple, concluded the road has “nearly four times the number of crashes that would be expected in a corridor with similar traffic volume, number of lanes, and number of access points.”

Many of the project’s opponents said they would have been supportive of reconstructing Secor Road if it were administered a three-lane “road diet,” which calls for one lane running each direction and a middle turn lane. That way, homes would be spared, tax revenue would be maintained, and the nine-foot lanes would be widened.

“We’re here to embrace something better for our community than what the traffic department is suggesting. We want to keep our homes, we want to keep our school whole, and we want to bring up our property values,” said resident Dana Dunbar, who started the community group Save Our Secor. “And we think the road diet could do that.”

But both safety studies found the “road diet” would cause traffic backups and not significantly improve safety — and the federal grant money would not have applied.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to handle the disrepair of Secor but do it in a way that doesn’t erode, then, the neighborhoods, and do it on both sides,” Toledo Councilman Tom Waniewski said. “But we can’t advance anything without a vote of council.”

Voting in favor of tabling were Mr. Straub, Robert Reichert, Mr. Decker, and Jeff Gibbs. Voting against the motion were Katherine O’Connell and John Lewis.

Ottawa Hills Village Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. March 20.

Contact Sarah Elms at: selms@theblade.com or 419-724-6103 or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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