A controversy has swirled around the city of Portsmouth for several months and that controversy deals with the construction of the Portsmouth Athletic Complex. When the construction was done, the city sidewalk was moved, leaving a couple of fire hydrants in the middle of the sidewalk and a utility pole in the middle of another segment of the sidewalk. Second Ward Councilwoman Jo Ann Aeh was the first to bring it up and it has occupied a large amount of Portsmouth City Council’s discussion time.
On Friday morning, a crew of city workers arrived at the scene of a fire hydrant in the middle on the sidewalk on Findlay Street, and promptly dug it up and removed it. City workers said it was just the first of several issues that still exist at the complex.
One of the workers said water lines are running under the softball field and under the tennis courts as well, which they said could be dangerous if they broke. One of the lines is reportedly under a fence and workers said if there is a water problem, they could have to tear up the fence. One worker said Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison had said his department doesn’t need the hydrant where it was.
“I didn’t even know they were doing it,” Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison told the Daily Times. “And I certainly didn’t say we don’t need it.”
Raison said he does not know what is going on with the particular fire hydrant that was removed on Friday.
“I got a message this morning from the city manager and he said, ‘I don’t remember if I told you or not, but we’re moving a fire hydrant on Findlay Street’ and that’s all I know about it,” Raison said.
Raison said he would drive over to where the fire hydrant was removed to inspect what was done.
“There has been a complaint by Councilwoman Jo Ann Aeh about the obstructions on the sidewalk,” Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen said. “So we just decided we would go ahead and remove the fire hydrants and then there’s a utility pole we’re looking at relocating. We’re just looking at removing the obstructions in the sidewalk over there.”
Part of the discussion at the last city council meeting was who would pay for a surveyor to survey the property and get specific answers as to any encroachment. Would the city pay? Or the school system pay?
“We had met with the school and we kind of had a discussion and we said we’ll do this and see what happens,” Allen said.
When Allen was asked if there wasn’t a need for the hydrant that was removed Friday, he responded – “I think they’re going to locate them across the street. We had talked about relocating that to the west side of Findlay.”
“I just need the communication to cross the city because I didn’t even know they were doing it,” Raison said. “I certainly didn’t say we don’t need it.”
The Times was unable to reach Aeh for comment on Friday.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.