By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green rounded out the year Thursday by approving steps for the city’s first roundabouts and a new building in City Park.
During its final meeting of the year, City Council voted unanimously to issue a total of nearly $10 million in bonds to finance both projects.
For the roundabouts, $6.2 million in bonds will be used to improve the Interstate 75 and East Wooster Street area by constructing rotary intersections.
“This is a great piece of legislation to end the year on,” said council member Bruce Jeffers.
The city has been working on the East Wooster improvements for years, he noted. Jeffers told Mayor Dick Edwards that he recently visited the community of Carmel, Indiana, which the mayor frequently points out as a community that knows how to use roundabouts. Carmel has 100 of the circular intersections.
“The roundabouts are going to be great” in Bowling Green, Jeffers said.
The project will add two roundabouts designed for semi-trucks at both I-75 interchanges on East Wooster Street. The bridge driving surface will be replaced, with a bike-pedestrian trail being added from Alumni Drive to Dunbridge Road along north side of Wooster Street. The plan calls for a landscaped gateway to be created to Bowling Green and Bowling Green State University.
The goal is made the entrance to the city more attractive, create a smoother traffic flow and reduce accidents at the interchanges.
Though utility work will begin in 2018, the bulk of the actual interchange and roadway work will take place in 2019.
The bonds will help pay for the road widening, paving, resurfacing, grading, draining, constructing curbs, sidewalks and related drainage improvements, installing traffic signals and lighting, installing waterlines and sanitary sewers, and constructing a sanitary sewer pump station.
The roundabout project is being worked on with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The current estimated cost for the entire project is more than $8.8 million. The city and utility portion of the project is approximately $6 million. An ODOT safety grant of $750,000 in addition to the ODOT share of the project at $1.7 million adds up to $2.47 million toward the cost. The Wood County Commissioners also kicked in $300,000 for the project.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, council approved the sale of $3.75 million in bonds to tear down three old buildings and construct a new one in City Park.
“This is great news,” Kristin Otley, director of the city park and recreation department, said after the meeting. “We’re excited. We’ll get working on it.”
The buildings being demolished are the Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building and Depot Building, all near the entrance of City Park. It was determined that the old buildings were not work sinking renovation dollars into.
The buildings will be replaced with one larger building with adequate space for programming, storage, ADA accessibility, and an attractive design that reflects the historic nature of City Park.
The bonds will pay for the demolition of the old buildings, plus clearing and improving the site, constructing, furnishing and equipping a new building, including landscaping, paving an entry drive and parking lot, and building a patio.
The park building project is expected to start late summer of 2018. Council also authorized the municipal administrator to enter into contracts for architectural and design services for the new building.
Otley has previously stressed that the park levy passed by Bowling Green voters last year included money to pay off the bonds for this building project.
“We are not asking people for additional money for this project,” she said.
Construction of the new park building has a “fairly tight timeline” to minimize interruption with park programming, Otley explained. The architecture and engineering firms should be hired by February, with bids being awarded in July. Construction should begin in mid-August next year, so the project will be completed by mid-spring in 2019.
The replacement of three smaller buildings totaling 8,000 square feet, with one totaling 12,000 square feet will allow for improved traffic flow at the park entrance, and for a larger parking area with 100 spots.
The additional parking will be useful not only for those using the new building, but also for those using the pool or ballfield, Otley said. It’s not unusual for all the parking spots in City Park to be used during events.