CONNEAUT — City Council President Jon Arcaro recently traded letters with Ohio Department of Transportation District 4 leadership regarding the reconstruction of Route 20 between Parrish Road and the Conneaut Plaza.
The project, which started earlier this year, was scheduled to finish by the end of October. Traffic on Route 20 has been restricted to eastbound traffic only for the duration of the work to preserve access to University Hospitals Conneaut, which is located just east of the site.
Arcaro said on Wednesday he was motivated to send a letter to ODOT District 4 Deputy Director Gery Noirot after hearing that a business just west of the work site was on the brink of closing.
In Arcaro’s letter, he said the project has been plagued by issues, miscalculations and sheer disregard by the contractor for the project’s impact on local businesses. Arcaro said in the letter he is concerned with the impact of winter on the quality of work being done on the site.
At a Conneaut City Council meeting in June, business owners who had been impacted by the closure of Route 20 to westbound traffic spoke. One, Benjamin Mills, owner of the Little Caesars located in the Conneaut Plaza, said business had declined 25 percent in five weeks during the road work. The day of that meeting was the last day the business was open, Mills said at the time.
Arcaro said members of council are still hearing from city residents about disruptions caused by the project.
“We continue to get phone calls and emails and you see somebody out and they jump all over us, because they expect us to do something,” he said. “There’s really nothing we can do.”
In Noirot’s response email, provided to the Star Beacon by Arcaro, he said the contractor is 16 days behind schedule, but the road is expected to be open to traffic by Thanksgiving.
City Manager Jim Hockaday said the goal was to reopen the road to traffic in both directions on Friday.
Hockaday said he would have handled the contractor differently if the city was in charge of the project. He said he believes the contractor could have moved the work along faster, but there’s nothing the city could have done to move the work along faster.
“Anything that we can do, we’ve done,” Hockaday said.
Hockaday said he calls the project manager daily, and has reached out to the contractor.
“The contractor has never had even the couth to respond to an email directly, asking for updates or expectations, and I think it’s indicative of the contractor,” Hockaday said. “If I were a contractor and I knew the community I was working in was that upset, I would at least try to open a line of dialogue, and they’ve never done that. And that reflects directly on them.”
“There’s just no priority given to the plight of our local businesses and the residents of that area ... no concern to get the project finished when we had all this good weather,” Arcaro said.
In Noirot’s email, he said the project was delayed for nine days due to gas line relocations, and there were numerous weather delays.
The most recent delays were caused by availability of subcontractors for curb and gutter slip forming and paving, according to Noirot’s email.
“They have a lot of work left to do, and at least it appears that they can get two way traffic open and barricade up where they’re working, to do all of the other work,” Arcaro said. “They still have guardrail work to do, they still have berm work to do, they still have driveway aprons to do.”