River Street project's dust draws residents' ire

Denise Richardson | The Daily StarA street-sweeper is shown Wednesday on River Street in Oneonta.

Road work on River Street in Oneonta dusted up complaints Wednesday, according to the mayor, who said residents were legitimately annoyed about conditions.

Mayor Dick Miller said he personally heard a few complaints about the paving project, including concerns about the use of stones and the quantity of dust.

“We are doing everything within our power to respond,” Miller said in an email late Wednesday.

A street-sweeper traversed River Street late Wednesday afternoon to collect excess gravel and dampen down the dust, city officials said.

River Street runs through the Sixth Ward and is a main thoroughfare.

Road work was done on River and other city streets starting in about May. Crews applied a first layer in the hot-in-place recycle method, and the recent gravel layer was a finishing phase. The method, new to the city this year, also was used on a portion of Maple Street by the mayor’s residence.

Miller said the weather Wednesday, the volume and speed of traffic on River Street and nature of the materials resulted in problematic, intolerable conditions.

Jemele Mitrano, a River Street resident, said she is recovering from open-heart surgery and hadn’t gone outside Tuesday or Wednesday because she felt her health was in jeopardy. On Wednesday, she called City Hall three times about the dusty conditions, which she described as “worse than 9/11.”

“I was livid,” she said late in the afternoon. But City Hall staffers were gracious, she said, and the mayor paid her a visit.

“I don’t know if he is a sweet-talker, but he was very tactful ... apologetic, very apologetic,” Mitrano said. “I’ll give him a chance to clear it up.”

Some other residents also were concerned about the dust, Mitrano said, and there wasn’t any indication that road work was scheduled except for “no parking” signs on River Street. Advanced notice would have been “wonderful,” she said.

Miller also shared apologies and explanations through emails to Common Council members and others. Communications about work could have been better, he said.

“I want to apologize for the inconvenience of Sixth Ward residents, particularly those who live on River Street and those streets immediately adjacent to it,” Miller said. “If I lived in the area I would be outraged.”

Linda Rowinski of Bike Otsego 2014 also contacted the mayor Wednesday and objected on behalf of bicyclists to stones being used in the paving process.

“It’s a safety issue,” she said. 

She and other Bike Otsego 2014 committee members are planning a Sept. 20 ride starting in Oneonta and featuring scenic destinations in the area. Chestnut Street, Main Street and River Streets are main routes for bicyclists, she said, and organizers also will be checking the conditions of county roads.

Rowinski said she understood the need for road work to maintain city streets. The mayor assured her that River Street work would be done by the time of the ride, she said, but organizers will continue to monitor conditions.

“If the roads are not in good shape, we’ll look for different routes,” she said.

Crews last year applied the paving process to Ivy Court and Central Avenue as test sites, Miller said, who cited them as examples of how similarly paved streets will look later.

Greg Mattice, senior engineering technician for the city, is working with the vendor to address the dust and related issues, Miller said.

“In the short term, rain will help,” Miller said. “In the long term, the dust will be gone and the surface will become more smooth.”

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