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City eyes pedestrian safety barriers for arena

Pantagraph - 8/28/2017

Aug. 28--BLOOMINGTON -- The cost of making the sidewalks and ramps outside Grossinger Motors Arena compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act could more than quadruple to $571,875 if safety barriers to protect patrons waiting outside the city-owned facility are added to the project.

It's worth the expense, city officials say.

"In addition to the necessary ADA improvements, (city) staff is also recommending significant safety enhancements, including the addition of bollards (posts to keep vehicles out of pedestrian areas) in front of the arena," said City Manager David Hales.

"We feel this is a very wise and prudent move, given the hundreds and thousands of patrons that sometimes gather there and the curve of Madison Street in that area," he added.

The City Council will consider at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall approving a $571,875 contract with the lone bidder, Stark Excavating, to complete the work, including installing bollards.

"That area right in front of Madison Street is where our main doors are," said Lynn Cannon, executive director of the arena managed by her employer, VenuWorks. "So quite often when we are hosting an event a large crowd gathers as the doors are opening."

"The safety concern is that any car that might have mechanical difficulties or is involved in an accident of some sort has nothing to prevent it from running into that crowd of people," she added.

The sidewalk and ramp modifications are being made to comply with a February 2016 Illinois attorney general's notification of multiple ADA violations at the arena. The city has until Dec. 31, 2017, to resolve the sidewalk and ramp violations.

According to city records, there have been 91 accidents during the past 10 years on Madison Street between Front and Olive streets, said Bloomington Facilities Manager Russel Waller in a memo to the council. Several involved vehicles stopping to drop off patrons.

Given the amount of the sidewalk along Madison that needs to be replaced to meet ADA standards, the city staff asked the city's design consultant, the Farnsworth Group, to investigate adding safety improvements along Madison to protect patrons outside.

Stark submitted a $113,275 base bid for the ADA sidewalk and ramp improvements. Options for adding lighted safety bollards raised the total cost to $489,175 (for bollard rated to withstand 30 mph impacts) or $571,875 (for a 50 mph rating).

"The cost difference between the 30 and 50 mph rated bollards is worth the added protection provided for patrons waiting to enter the arena," Waller said of the city staff's recommendation.

In other business, the council is expected to vote on whether to incorporate the privately run, not-for-profit Downtown Bloomington Association as a division within the city's community development department.

If approved, the newly created downtown development division would incorporate many of the DBA's current functions and allow more of the city's money to be directly invested in downtown initiatives rather than cover DBA operational expenses for rent, utilities and salaries of two full-time staff members, including DBA Executive Director Tricia Stiller.

Since 2011, the city has funded DBA at $90,000 annually. Its predecessor, Uniquely Bloomington, received $200,000 annually.

The new division would be $272,000 per year, less the $90,000 currently spent on DBA, leaving a net increase of $182,457.

The current DBA board would continue to serve in an advisory role.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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(c)2017 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

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