Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Business owners in the 100 blocks of South Lee and East Fisher streets face 90 days of disruption with the start of construction next week on the city’s half-million-dollar “South Square Streetscape Improvement Project.”
When it’s finished, city officials hope this downtown area will be transformed into more of a destination point for dining and entertainment.
The project includes new lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks, curbing, traffic patterns, parking and the restoration of the brick street surface in the 100 block of East Fisher Street.
Salisbury City Council approved a $524,783 contract Tuesday with Summit Developers for the improvements. The contractor will use a vacant corner at South Lee and East Fisher streets as a staging area for construction materials, equipment and vehicles.
Council also approved the closing, as needed, of East Fisher Street between South Main and South Lee streets. Senior Planner Lynn Raker said the street will never be closed after 4 p.m. weekdays and will stay open 24 hours on the weekend.
Delivery trucks and pedestrians (via sidewalks) also will have access to the street throughout the project though, at times, it could be closed to regular vehicular traffic 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Raker met Tuesday afternoon with property owners in the area and the contractor.
Raker said they agreed that the city and/or contractor will provide updates to the property owners every two weeks.
The business owners were given five different contact numbers for the contractor and city staff.
“We’re trying to work this out as a project everyone is involved with,” Raker said.
Some of the big concerns property owners expressed included the expected dust and grit that will be part of the construction, the loss of on-street parking and the possible cutting of underground telephone lines.
While Summit Developers has a 90-day contract, it will be trying to finish East Fisher Street in particular as quickly as possible, Raker said. “That’s the big push … The faster it gets done, the better.”
Construction actually will start Monday on part of the 100 block of South Lee Street.
Raker said she expected work to begin on the South Lee Street end of the 100 block of East Fisher Street in about three weeks. The East Fisher Street work will be done in segments, she said.
The street’s original brick surface is buried under layers of asphalt. As part of the construction, those layers will be removed to expose the brick, which will have to be restored.
Another major part of the project will be changing the 100 block of East Fisher Street to a two-way street. Vehicles now travel in a one-way direction east, away from South Main Street.
The corner to be used by Summit Developers as a staging area will eventually become a corner parking plaza, aimed at replacing some of the on-street parking that will be lost on East Fisher.
Council tackled several other matters related to parking lots or streets Tuesday.
It approved a change in the city code to spell out management and enforcement policies on seven city-owned parking lots downtown.
Officials had discovered that several of the parking lots were not mentioned in the city code and those that were did not address several issues.
In particular, the changes speak to rental spaces in city parking lots.
Customers renting spaces from the city will be given a parking permit, which must be displayed.
The city manager is authorized to designate the spaces to be rented, as well as decide the parking regulations for all city-owned spaces, rented or not.
“Any vehicle parked in violation … may either be towed to a storage area or ticketed with a parking citation,” the code says.
In another matter, Traffic Engineer Wendy Brindle gave council an update on parking restrictions council approved last October for the 700 and 800 blocks of West Kerr Street.
Parking is prohibited on both sides of the 700 block and on the south side of the 800 block of West Kerr Street.
Council approved the restriction as part of a community policing effort to discourage illegal activities and improve safety for people who use Jersey City Park.
Council had asked for an update on whether the parking restrictions helped.
Brindle said the city had received no complaints about the parking being prohibited. The Police Department indicated that the call volume for drug activity in the area has been reduced, Brindle said.
She added that the parking restriction “seems to discourage non-residents from using the neighborhood park for illegal activities.” Brindle recommended that the parking restrictions remain.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy said his personal trips into the Jersey City neighborhood confirm that things are better with the new parking restrictions.
Council also:
– Approved Rowan Investment Co.’s request to allow parking on the east side of the 400 block of North Lee Street.
Rowan Investment owns all the properties on that side of the street and had received signatures in support of the change from the property owner on the west side.
– Approved the closing of the 100 block of East Liberty Street March 29, 2008, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. for Andrea Overbeck’s wedding reception at the F&M Trolley Barn.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or