The continuing saga of the fire hydrant on Findlay Street that is no longer there, wrote another chapter Monday when the Daily Times spoke with Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen and Second Ward Councilwoman Jo Ann Aeh.
At an earlier Portsmouth City Council meeting, Aeh complained that there were fire hydrants and power poles in the middle of the sidewalk next to the Portsmouth Athletic Complex, hampering the movement by pedestrians. The Portsmouth City School District had moved the sidewalk and that caused the encumbrances.
When the topic came up at a recent City Council meeting, Aeh objected to the city paying for the removal and any other work on PCSD property.
Last week, Portsmouth city workers dug the fire hydrant up and carried it away, prompting the Times to as Allen who incurred the cost of that project.
“The city took it out. It’s our hydrant,” Allen said. “The school is not paying for that. That’s what Jo Ann wants – the school to pay. Any hydrant we would move, we would never charge anybody, and we move hydrants quite a bit.”
Allen said the decision is the result of a meeting.
“I met with the school, we had a discussion,” Allen said. “They’re looking for a set of plans. They think there’s a set of plans that have been approved by the city. We’re trying to find those. In the meantime, there’s an obstruction and people in wheelchairs and moms pushing strollers through that neighborhood that I see all the time, there’s an obstruction. So I removed the obstruction because I thought that was the greatest concern that somebody in a wheelchair couldn’t go on that sidewalk. If it wasn’t, then it’s a personal agenda. So I moved that.”
Allen said the work is not done.
“There’s a utility pole that belongs to the city down near the corner of Ninth (Street) and Findlay (Street) and I instructed our Traffic guys this morning to go cite a new pole inside the fence of the school complex because the school gave us permission to do it,” Allen said. “That will be moved and then there will be three light poles that belong to AEP that we’ll have to look at. Then there will be no obstructions over there.”
“They (PCSD) created the encumbrance,” Aeh said. “We didn’t have a fire hydrant in the middle of the sidewalk. That’s been there for years. The school moved the sidewalk out to the curb. You had a right-of-way between the curb and the sidewalk. They took the sidewalk and moved it out to the curb. When they did that, the utility poles and fire hydrants that had been in the grassy area were now in the middle of the concrete.”
At one point Allen said a survey needed to be done to see exactly where the complex crosses onto city property.
“To do a survey, I’m not agreeing to that at all,” Aeh said. “You walk down there and you stand and you look and it (sidewalk) curves back past the administration building, then it comes back out and you can see where the sidewalk belongs.”
Aeh said anyone standing on the northwest corner of Ninth and Waller and look east, they can see the softball fence is right in the city’s right-of-way. Aeh said she does not believe the school system has an agreement in their possession.
“They had better produce it because they don’t,” Aeh said. “When we vacated the alleys and streets, they followed the proper procedure. They went to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission recommended it and Council vacated them.”
Aeh said the action was done in two ordinances.
“Then they came back and wanted to divide it into phases,” Aeh said. “So we did a third ordinance that allowed them to do from the baseball field and the tennis courts – that area was phase one. The track was phase two, and those are the only things that are on the vacated area. They did the softball field and we didn’t have to vacate anything for that.”
Aeh said the reason there is a handicap ramp off the sidewalk shows – “they knew what they were doing.” She said she thinks they got into the project and found in order to have a regulation softball field, they didn’t have enough space so they just moved it out.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.