Norwalk moves forward with 'monumental project'

Cary Ashby • Jun 20, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Norwalk is moving forward with a state grant for a two-mile, multi-use path, with the city contributing significantly less than expected toward the project.

City council adopted an ordinance Tuesday to supplement the 2019 annual budget with an amount not to exceed $97,000 for the preliminary design and environmental studies. That amount is part of the $271,000 that will be budgeted next year and in 2021 — a much smaller amount than the $615,000 that council discussed at length two weeks ago.

“We will budget that and limit certain programs,” said interim Norwalk Public Works Director Wally Ritchie, referring to curb improvements and handicapped-accessible ramps. “I’m not eliminating — just limiting.”

The multi-use trail/bicycle path will be on the property that Norwalk purchased from Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway in the late 1990s. The 10-foot wide concrete path will stretch slightly more than two miles and cross two bridges and a ravine. The path would connect Veterans Memorial Lake Park to the Ernsthausen Community Center and allow pedestrians and bicyclists to travel the north-south length of Norwalk while only crossing four streets.

“Pretty monumental project for Norwalk. It’s going to be used a lot,” Ritchie told council Tuesday.

“I make reference to the reservoir; I’ve been around a long time. Back in the day, it was 15 people out there all day. Now there is probably 300 or 400. I think this is going to be the same way; we’re going to get more and more and more (use).”

Norwalk will contribute a total of $271,000 between now and 2021 toward an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) grant worth $950,000. That makes the total project worth a maximum of slightly more than $1.2 million.

“We are at $1.6 million; we got it down to $1.2 (million) and some change. I met with ODOT and found some different things (and) met with the engineering company. There were probably five or six funding mechanisms that I have come across that we can use for this,” Ritchie said.

“And without spilling all the beans, this is a very good company for construction work. We’ve got some amazing people in this town and you get projects done for next to nothing. It’s still a lot of money (for the path) and I know that; that’s big, but the use and to fight for it was big for me. I think it’s going to be great for the community.”

In April 2018, council approved the city apply for the ODOT grant. At that point, Norwalk’s contribution was going be $150,000 on the $1.1 million project, which was planned to happen in two phases.

“There are a lot of people who will hear $1.2 million and (say) that’s a lot of money, but I want to remind people too that most of this money is coming from ODOT. The cost we heard from the city was going to be about $615,000 and now we’re down to — worst-case scenario — $217,000,” Councilman Matt Doughty said.

“It’s a big jump down. It’s much more manageable; it’s much, more what we were looking for when we originally signed on for this grant.”

In February, council learned that since all the money in the transportation alternatives program through the ODOT hadn’t been spent, the city could receive another $390,000 in grant money. However, the project wouldn’t be done in the two phases, as was originally proposed. That pushed the total project cost to $1.6 million, with Norwalk needing to contribute $615,000. Council members discussed how feasible it would be to pay that amount.

Now, the city will contribute $271,000 toward the ODOT grant. In 2020, more preliminary designs and environmental studies will cost $124,000 and the final $50,000 in 2021 will go toward construction and an inspection.

“I just wanted to thank you for working extremely hard at reducing the original cost of this project and getting it to where it’s feasible for all community members. I just want to say thank you. I think you did an outstanding job,” Councilman Jordy Horowitz told Ritchie. 

Project bids will be awarded in October 2021. Construction is planned to start the next year.

“I thank you for the work you’ve put into it,” Doughty told Ritchie.

Councilwoman Deb Lucal thanked the interim public works director for explaining the process and “having meetings with us.”

Norwalk Safety-service Director Ellen Heinz expressed her appreciation on behalf of the city.

“Wally, you did an excellent job with this and thank you to everyone who put a lot of time and energy into it,” she said.

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