By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County officials are asking the courts to decide how much the county should pay for certain property that will make way for a long-awaited widening of South Avenue.
The county filed lawsuits this week in common pleas court, seeking to invoke its eminent domain authority. Engineer Richard Marsico said about 15 parcels are involved.
The county plans to widen nearly two miles of South Avenue, between Presidential Drive and Western Reserve Road, from two lanes to five. Some property must be bought to accommodate the widening.
Owners refuse: Marsico said the county was able to negotiate purchase agreements with nearly all affected property owners. Some, though, refused the county's offer, which Marsico said was based on fair market value.
"I think some of them are just being unreasonable," he said.
Under Ohio's eminent domain laws, the county can ask the courts to decide on a fair price. The county can still proceed with the project knowing it will ultimately come away with the land it needs.
Work to be done: Marsico said the project is still on schedule for bid opening this fall. It will include resurfacing, storm sewer installation, pavement markings, new signs and a traffic signal at Western Reserve Road.
The project has been in the works for years and was originally meant to make South Avenue a four-lane road. It was pushed behind schedule two years ago when officials decided to add the fifth lane for a turning lane, which is what created the need to acquire property.
The engineer's office has also undertaken an aggressive program of replacing damaged or broken culverts on county roads that are set for paving this summer, Marsico said.
The idea is to replace the culverts now so the roads won't have to be torn up after new pavement is laid.
Contractor hired: County commissioners approved hiring Gennaro Pavers of Lowellville as general contractor for the summer resurfacing program. Gennaro was the low bidder at $1,036,142 and will be paid with revenue from a 0.5 percent county sales tax.
Commissioners also approved hiring Mastermind Systems Inc. of Akron to conduct a survey of curves and guardrails on county roads.
Marsico said the study will be funded with an $87,000 grant the county received earlier this year from the County Engineers Association of Ohio.
The bulk of the money will be to determine the severity of curves and appropriate speed limits on county roads, and to help identify no-passing zones, Marsico said.
The curves will be checked by a consultant who will drive around the county with a special piece of equipment in the car that will measure centrifugal force and determine a safe speed for the curves.
The study will also identify areas where guardrail needs to be replaced or installed.