For several Oneonta business owners, the road to improved accessibility is proving bumpy.
According to Sheila Andreic, owner of Noah’s World, Roundhouse Road tenants have spent months seeking improvements to the heavily potholed road leading to their businesses. But, she said, because of complexities surrounding ownership of the road, only “Band-Aid” fixes have been made.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen this road,” Andreic, who launched Noah’s World at 144 Roundhouse Road in early 2018, said.
Andreic started a petition for improvements last fall and, last week, shared it on her business’ Facebook page. The post, she said, has garnered more than 100 comments.
“I get people on a daily basis mentioning how bad it is,” she said. “My biggest concern is the safety of kids, because I see people swerving and I have parents telling me they’re dodging potholes.”
“I put (the petition) on social media because I wanted parents to see that I’m trying to fight for them, get answers and give them a chance to voice their concerns,” Andreic said. “That way, different organizations involved can see that I’m not just one person and one business being affected — there are many businesses, people and children being put at risk.”
Jody Zakrevsky, CEO of Otsego Now, operating as part of the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency, said, because the road is privately owned, the agency and city of Oneonta cannot invest internal or taxpayer money.
“The Oneonta Railyard Local Development Corporation acquired the Roundhouse Road property for a new industrial park in spring 2017,” he said in a written statement. “As part of the sale, the LDC also acquired Roundhouse Road.”
The LDC, Zakrevsky said, is in debt from the acquisition with “no other fiscal assets,” preventing it from funding reconstruction.
To enable roadway rehab, Zakrevsky said, Otsego Now took a leasehold interest in Roundhouse Road last March. Doing so, he said, is part of a larger plan for the would-be industrial park and collaboration with the city.
“The city can spend money if it’s tied to an economic development project and the IDA can spend moneys on a project it is sponsoring,” he said. “As we near development of the industrial park, that becomes a project that both the city and IDA can invest in and part of that is an access road into that district.”
Zakrevsky said he expects the last of three resurfacing bids this week, a precursor to a City Council proposal.
“Our Projects and Finance committees meet Thursday to review the bids,” he said. “Once the bids are approved, we can publicly release them to City Council. We will draft a proposal to the city for sharing the cost of reconstruction and hope to have work begin by July.”
He said the agency’s Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement will be included with the proposal.
Zakrevsky estimated rebuilding the portion of Roundhouse Road from Fonda Avenue to Noah’s World will cost “between $1.2 (million) and $1.4 million to bring it up to city specifications.”
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said the city’s involvement in such an expenditure is far from decided.
“It is not the city’s practice to use taxpayers’ money to maintain a private road,” he said. “I’ve made it clear to the IDA that if they want to ask our council to spend the taxpayers’ money, they need to send us a written request.”
“While there has been some discussion between the city and the IDA, to date, the city has never received a specific request,” Herzig said Wednesday. “Ultimately, the Council will have to decide whether the expenditure of taxpayer money is appropriate and that will all depend upon what request, if any, is submitted.”
“The (Oneonta Railyard) LDC was established by the IDA to purchase the property,” Herzig said. “So in essence, it’s owned by the IDA. The city’s position all along has been that the road should be built by the owner to city specs and then the city would take it over and maintain it.”
Zakrevsky said he considers the council’s approval of the forthcoming proposal “very important.”
“We’re hoping the city accepts it and that will allow us to start development of the industrial park,” he said. “The short-term thing is to make the site presentable, because if you’re bringing prospective tenants in, you want to be able to drive in on a nice road.”
Herzig said patrons and owners of pre-existing businesses also “deserve a decent road.
“We’ve got some excellent businesses there,” he said, “and when they moved to that area, they had every right to expect they’d have a decent road. The obligation … falls on the IDA. I certainly hope and expect that the type of road those businesses deserve will be provided, but at this stage of the game, there’s nothing the city can do.”
Zakrevsky said there are “seven or eight” businesses already on Roundhouse Road and that he hopes to “have a dozen or so more within two to five years.”
Throughout what he called an “extremely complex” process, Zakrevsky said, responses from community members and city officials have been “very positive.”
“I think people understand our issues,” he said. “Everybody is trying to work together, but obviously something needs to be done.”