Road improvements debated

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate May 31, 2013 05:52 pm

Planning commissioner says Harrold and Hoover streets need better visibility

Del Norte County supervisors heard Tuesday from residents of Hoover Avenue and Harrold Street who say traffic and speeding in their neighborhood has increased.

Two residents, including county Planning Commissioner Johnny Jacobs, complained that a hill on Harrold blocks the view from Hoover Street of cars coming south from Washington Boulevard. They say the amount of foot and vehicle traffic in the area has increased because of the hospital and businesses on Washington and the Social Security Administration building on Harrold Street. 

District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin brought the issue to the Board’s attention in the hope that the intersection would be added to the county’s road repair list. He said paperwork in connection with repairs at that intersection date to 2008, and they were expected to be paid for by the contractor who built and owns the Social Security building.

At the suggestion of District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure, however, the Board directed county staff to conduct a speed study and analyze the number of vehicle collisions at the intersection.

“Normally when somebody identifies a problem with a road we start with a road study, look at the analysis and look at the speed and look at the type of fix we could have,” McClure said. 

The developer of the Social Security building posted a cash bond of $22,000 to pay for improvements to that intersection, said Tina McClendon, deputy director of engineering and roads. But the developer later decided the bond wouldn’t be enough to make those improvements correctly and the county didn’t have the funds to contribute to that project, she said.

“The developer walked away,” McClendon said. “Prior staff members made the decision that we could not come up with the funding it would take to lower that hump. Going to be some major engineering to be dealt with, infrastructure. That’s how it got to this point.”

Hoover Avenue resident Jacobs said his neighbors asked him to bring their concerns to the Planning Commission before the developer received his permit to build the Social Security building. He encouraged the county to use the $22,000 bond soon, pointing out that costs of labor and materials continue to rise.

Jacobs also added that county staff said that flattening the hump on Harrold Street would probably cost $100,000. He said he went to an independent contractor who does public projects, who said he could make the intersection safe for $39,000.

“We’re halfway there —we’ve got $22,000,” Jacobs said. “So I asked to have this thing put on the list and put it at as high of a priority as you can to utilize that promise before it’s gone.”

Jacobs was appointed to the Planning Commission in January. He said he was appearing before the Board on Tuesday as a property owner.

District 5 Supervisor David Finigan said Jacobs had approached him about the issue. Finigan said he told Jacobs that as a person owning property within 500 feet of the project and a planning commissioner he was in danger of having a conflict of interest.

“If we were to put this as a priority in the roads department, it would stink like a good ol’ boy thing worse than anything I’ve see in 17 years,” Finigan said. “And that’s a problem. Now, if it gets brought in as a safety issue, I don’t care. But to do a full-blown improvement advocated by a person that owns property within 500 feet that and also sits on a governmental entity, I got a problem with that.”

Jacobs said he no longer owns property within 500 feet of that intersection.

Supervisors will bring back the county’s road priority list for discussion at their June 11 meeting. County staff members are recommending the Board discuss ceasing maintenance on Mouth of Klamath Road, which branches off of Requa Road and Patrick J. Murphy Memorial Drive in Klamath.

A landslide occurred on Mouth of Klamath Road about a year ago, and much of the property on that road is tribal trust land that is outside the county’s jurisdiction, said County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina. The Board may discuss turning that road over to the Yurok Tribe, he said.

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