| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The City Council took the first step on April 25 that may lead to the realignment of Central Street.
The council approved sending to state officials and the Legislature a request to take part of the park property at Ruth Elizabeth Park so Hickory Street can be widened into a two-way thoroughfare.
The project, funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would rebuild Central Street from Pine Street to Hancock Street. Central Street would then be realigned to meet Hickory Street. The present intersection of Rifle and Central streets would also be rebuilt.
In order to accomplish the plans, three businesses, Kevin’s Towing on Central and Hancock streets, a two family rental property on Hickory Street and Impoco’s Poultry at the end of Hickory Street would have to be taken by eminent domain.
The owners of the three businesses have been critical of a lack of communication with the city
Christopher Cignoli, head of the Department of Public Works, explained at the April 25 meeting, as he has at other meetings concerning the project, the city will not start the process of assessing property values and working on relocation until the state has approved the issue of the park property.
The vote was unanimous in favor of the passage of the motion, although Councilor Bud William, who has repeatedly questioned the project, once again expressed concerns.
Williams asserted that while many of the project’s plans started in 2004, “people haven’t been involved post-tornado.” Cignoli has explained at the last council meeting the plans for the Central Street realignment plan had been approved by both the Maple High Six Corners Neighborhood Council and the Old Hill Neighborhood Council several years ago.
The City Council’s vote was delayed so both Cignoli and Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management, could present the information about the plan to the Maple High Six Corners Neighborhood Council on April 12. At that meeting some of the council board asked questions about the plan, but there was no expressed opposition and Ward Three City Councilor Melvin Edwards, who also serves as the neighborhood council’s president, did not take a vote to show approval for the plan.
Edwards did not speak about the neighborhood council meeting, but said, “I beg for sympathy and sensitivity” for the property owners.
Wesley James, the owner of the two-family rental property, told the City Council he and the other two property owners wanted to come to the neighborhood council meeting, but were told it was meeting in another location and missed the meeting.
He called the realignment “a messed up project.”
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