Businesses and City may have different agendas

King Street businessperson Bruce Maguire told Historic City News that he and other businesses and property owners along, adjacent to and near King Street, Riberia and Granada Streets are out to stop the 10-12 month FDOT King Street drainage project until it can be done right.

At tonight’s First Friday Art Walk, Kirsten Miller and other concerned citizens set up a booth outside Butterfield to get signatures on two petitions — one being forwarded to the St Augustine City Commission, the other to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The petitions express concern that, among other complaints, the FDOT and City are more concerned about getting the project “done sooner”, preferably now, rather than getting it “done right”.

As Maguire speaks to more and more of his business neighbors and residents, he tells Historic City News that he is finding, “the expedited start date does not allow for adequate planning by the businesses, property owners and tenants to offset the operational and logistical problems.”

Maguire says folks are ill prepared for the imminent, critical loss of revenues associated with the proposed work schedule and implementation plan.

“This morning I talked with Mayor Joe Boles,” Maguire told reporters. “He is going to put a resolution regarding the project on the next meeting agenda.”

City officials have already been receiving phone calls and e-mail from residents as they become aware of the FDOT plans. “The City had a senior staff meeting last night and they want the work to be done at night — with both lanes of traffic open during the day,” Maguire said.

Tuesday morning at 8:00 am, Maguire said that he has been invited to appear on WFOY with Kris Phillips to discuss the problem and what steps residents are taking to stall construction until the project can be better vetted.

When Maguire spoke to Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield, he confirmed that the FDOT has placed “a temporary hold” on construction awaiting the Commissioners decision.

Maguire said that also spoke to Mark Knight; whom Maguire said explained the staff positions to him. “First, they want it done right; but, they want it done sooner, preferably now.”

Maguire says that he stressed to Knight that the first priority to residents and businesses is that they want the project done right. Maguire went on to clarify that it is more important, at least to the people he has been talking to, for the project to wait until at least 2014 — between the 500th and the 450th anniversary commemorations. “We need a break and we need to plan.”

Second, Knight personally believes, according to Maguire, that FPL will not put the power lines underground, regardless of when the work is done — another issue to residents who feel the work needs to be done while the roadway is torn up. Maguire believes the issue with FPL would not be the cost or the time; but, the utility company demands a 10-foot wide, physically unobstructed easement for repairs. Maguire said he feels this is negotiable and can be accomplished.

Third, and this is the big one, if FDOT does not delay the project and does not agree to a night work schedule, then the City will not agree to an eastbound traffic flow during construction.

“His position was primarily based on safety and fire truck access,” Maguire told Historic City News. “My position, the city is going to be so clogged with traffic, the fire trucks will not make it anywhere south of Valencia, especially down a single lane opposite flow traffic on King Street.”

Maguire concluded by saying residents in the area will continue to keep pressure on City Commissioners. “I will continue to research the FDOT options, but we need to let the Commissioners know there is only one choice: delay the project, underground power and landscape.”

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