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Tensions persist over Tiffin construction

Residents vent frustrations and concerns at packed city council meeting

TIFFIN– Springmier Community Library barely managed to house the capacity attendance of the Tiffin City Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The meeting had a lively initiation with a public hearing for the assessment of the Original Town Urbanization Project. Behind the fully occupied rows of seating, additional residents stood in the back of the room, some soured by a recently completed project, others anxious about oncoming construction plans and many eager to voice their concerns.
Much of their anxiety largely stemmed from the Original Town Design Improvements – Sanitary Sewer Inflow And Infiltration Reduction Project, also known as the I and I Project. Completed this year, it saw all poor residential service lines replaced to eliminate inflow and infiltration into the sewer system.
Keith Detert expressed concern over the fact a sewer line was replaced only partially to his house.
“It wasn’t good; they hit a cistern that everyone knew was there, and they stopped. That’s not my fault.”
Detert feared he might have to pay for future damages to any non-replaced piping.
“I’m trying to figure out exactly what’s going on here, because I don’t want to have to keep paying, and paying and paying and not getting what I’m supposed to be paying for,” he insisted.
Council members responded good piping was not replaced as per the project requirements.
Diana Hummel, an 18-year Tiffin resident, cited damage to her landscaping and driveway by a front-end loader last year.
“I just paid the landscaper $500 to fix what was torn up by the city, and my driveway is still cracked. So are you guys gonna do anything or what? Now come on,” she scolded.
Hummel previously addressed the council on this matter as early as October of last year.
Butch Detert also described his unpleasant experience last summer.
“The guys didn’t do a very good job of cleaning up after themselves. We lived in dust and dirt for a long time,” he recalled. “If I track mud down the road from my job, we have to clean it up or we get fined.”
City Administrator Doug Boldt assessed the volume of attendees and their grievances.
“That’s not normal for that to show up at a regular council meeting,” he acknowledged. “But you have to understand that this summer was kind of an abnormally dry summer,” he explained. “We didn’t have a lot of rain, and I think that kind of contributed more to it than anything else.”
Boldt also noted the extra measures taken by the city in response to its trying circumstances. “The whole last year was great for construction,” he began. “But we treat a couple of roads inside the city limits with tree sap, and we’ve spent more money on that this last calendar year than we ever have, because it’s been so dusty.”
The city council meeting reached its crescendo when Dana Hummel interrupted Mayor Berner, with a second reference to his and Diana’s damaged driveway. The mayor then asked Hummel to wait his turn to speak.
Hummel retaliated by accusing the mayor of previously calling him a liar, to which Mayor Berner attempted to maintain order.
“Anyway, moving on. That’s a separate item,” Berner asserted.
“Bull crap!” shouted Dana. “You’re talking about doing a new project and you didn’t finish the first one!”
“You want me to have you removed?,” Mayor Berner responded sharply, tempering the meeting back to civility.
“They’ve had conversations with both me and the mayor and the city council on restoring their property a little bit better, and that didn’t happen.” Boldt said following the meeting. “They’ve been a little unhappy since the end of the previous project.”
With regards to residents’ feedback, Boldt cited, while the weather led to an unpleasant season, the constructional intent behind the I and I Project was successful.
“We didn’t get any complaints about the actual construction or actual pipe replacement that we did,” he remarked. “Any complaints we received were more along the lines of restoration,” which Boldt said has been routine in his 18 years in city administration.
Looking forward, the Original Town Urbanization Project will pertain to curb and gutter, storm sewer, sidewalks and street rehabilitation.
Boldt noted the project has been in the works for a number of years. He elaborated, while it’s planned for two phases, construction may extend into a third phase if necessary, as depicted on the project map.
“If we can afford to do it that way, I think that there’s some interest on the council to do it in two construction seasons,” he said. This would see Railroad Street to 2nd Street being handled in Phase 1, while 2nd Street to Highway 6 would make up Phase 2.
An extended three-phase schedule would retain the first phase but divide the second phase in two: 2nd Street to 3rd Street in Phase 2, and by 3rd Street to Highway 6 in Phase 3.
City council meeting attendees expressing confusion were directed out of the meeting room to a map detailing the project.
Boldt claimed, as was the circumstance with the I and I Project, the basis for Tiffin’s latest construction endeavor appears to be well received.
“The one thing that I took from the meeting was that nobody actually said they had a problem with the project itself,” Boldt noted.
“Nobody actually said, ‘Why are you wasting taxpayer’s money on this part of town to update it to something that we don’t want or that we don’t need?’ I took that to be a good thing.”
“Big picture, we think that this is a really good project.” Boldt reassured.
“We don’t distinguish the original part of town from the new part of town; it’s all Tiffin,” he elaborated “And simply put, this project is a nice facelift for the original part of town that’s going to create good streets and good sidewalks and a good storm sewer system for many, many years to come.”