Under construction

MOUNT VERNON - Recent news from the Mount Vernon City Street Department brought more attention to the intersection work at South Main and Gambier Streets.

On Friday morning, Street Superintendent Tom Hinkle reported that the supplier of the signal support mast arm poles is further behind schedule on their manufacturing which stems from a faulty hydraulic cylinder which is used at their plant to press the metal into the project specifications.

As a result, the poles installation could see a completion date in March instead of February, 2020.

“I began to worry when I didn’t hear anything from our supplier after several attempts to contact them,” Hinkle said. “We had assurances that we were going to be able to install the signal support poles from the delay notice we received in December.

"What doesn’t help is that there are only three suppliers of this type of product. Naturally, Union Metal’s competitors from Nebraska and Minnesota are both inundated with orders as well, which doesn’t appear to be a viable option for us right now and would only slow the project down even more.”

Canton-based Union Metal’s Vice President of Marketing, Tim Francis, sent a letter to Hinkle explaining and apologizing for the delay.

“The order is currently in process but was delayed because of our press downtime,” Francis said. “Currently they are expected to be completed through galvanizing and ready for powder coating the week of 2-14-20. We understand the need for this item to complete the job and any improvements that can be made will be done and updates passed along.

"Please accept our sincere apologies, we do understand how these delays affect projects and frustrations as a result.”

Apparently, Mount Vernon is not alone. Union Metal is asking several communities working on similar projects to be patient and that they are doing their best to catch up with production.

Looking at options for Mount Vernon, Hinkle met with Mayor Matt Starr, Engineer Brian Ball, and Safety-Service Director Rick Dzik, to develop a plan to handle the delay. Figuring a cost-benefit analysis and given the location of the intersection under construction, the city agreed that keeping the intersection as a four-way stop until the signal support poles arrive would be the most practical and least expensive option for the community.

“We could add temporary signals, but would require a great deal of effort for a system that is unreliable,” Ball said. “To do that, we would be looking at $6,900 per unit. The city would require four units which totals $27,600 per month, and that is simply not in our budget.”

That price doesn’t even include the set-up/tear-down fee, Hinkle added.

“It doesn’t make sense to spend needlessly provided that we can continue the work to prepare for the day that the signal support poles arrive and we are able to maintain safety,” Hinkle said.

“We don’t like delays, obviously,” Starr said. “However, as long as we are able to maintain safety, it looks like we all are going to have to be patient. It’s not like Union Metal wanted this to happen.”

Another City project that went out to public bid Friday morning was similar work at two other intersections along South Main Street including Ohio and Vine Streets. Both will involve replacing the custom-designed signal support poles.

“I think that the thing to keep in mind with the Gambier Street project is that we have an idea of some lessons learned along this process and how we can better anticipate and handle the curve balls that might be thrown our way when we contract those two intersections for our much needed traffic signal updates,” Hinkle said.

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