BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A group of about nine downtown business members representing about five businesses have started the task of looking into recommendations for the city when new sewers are put under Avenue G.
The group is looking for additional downtown business members to contribute to the group as they make recommendations to the city when the streets and sidewalks are replaced.
Skip Young, of Dana Bushong Jewelers, said the city has to replace and separate the 140-year-old sewer that currently mixes both sanitary and septic sewer. The EPA is requiring those systems to be separated.
City officials said last month that they couldn’t put the sewer in on Avenue H due to federal funding guidelines so the project was moved to Avenue G.
“I’ve been told that we could be looking at a true landscaping change. So now I think is the time to start look at curbs, sidewalks, parking, and landscaping,” Young said.
He said the city is looking at closing Avenue G from 2nd Street to 10th Street for an undetermined amount of time.
“I was approached to pull together what we wanted as far as street closings. We are here to assume that if we do nothing, we will get the worst treatment possible,” Young said.
Young said he was told the project could take place in the next year or two, but Main Street Director Cassie Gilbert indicated she had been told the work wouldn’t be done until at least 2020.
Chris Cetta, with Under the Sun, said she’s heard of these types of projects and that it can kill a business if it’s not handled properly.
Young said that’s why he’s trying to generate a conversation.
“We just have to do what we would like. We can look at back door entrances or going on vacation. Maybe I’m jumping the gun on time here, but historically downtown organizations take a lot of time to come to an agreement.”
Gilbert said she’s currently gathering information but there is some time.
“I have talked to the other cities that have had this done. But there is no funding for this right now, the city is still on track for 2020. So we do have time to get a plan together that everybody likes and everyone is happy,” Gilbert said.
“Other towns have sent me information on what they’ve done. Some have done the whole street at one time and others have done block by block by block. It most cases they had to do back alley entrances (during the construction).
Issues discussed briefly at the meeting included parking, trees, curbing, and drainage.
Young said he would like to see a dramatic change in the parking with angle parking on the north side and no parking or single parallel parking on the other side.
The group set July 12 at 5:30 p.m. for the next meeting at the Fort Madison Area Artists Association.