Athens Mayor Patterson Talks Infrastructure, Fire, Student Density and E. State St.

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First-term Athens Mayor Steve Patterson has faced some major issues since coming to office. Just recently, he has had to confront a major water leak, crumbling infrastructure, a major fire, the hiring of a new university president, increased student density in housing and a major resurfacing project on the ever-busy East State St.

All have demanded his full attention and strategic decision making.

Recently, a major water leak on the West side of town nearly drained the Highland Reservoir and caused Ohio University to close for a day. According to Patterson, many parts of Athens’ infrastructure are quite old and fragile. Even though the City has a repair and replacement strategy, the old systems too often break causing issues around the city.

Not only do the mayor and the City need to address old water and sewer lines but too often, firefighters must confront fires in old buildings that do not have many of the modern safety devices. Last Sunday, Building 12 in the Carriage Hill complex was destroyed by fire displacing about 50 people.

The building was built in 1964 and did not contain many of the current safety devices, like sprinklers, that are now required for multiple family units built more recently, the Mayor says. He was, however, laudatory of the multiple fire units who arrived at the scene to fight the fire. They prevented the fire from jumping to other buildings in the complex, according to Patterson.

The Mayor is looking forward to talking further with Ohio University’s new president, Duane Nellis. Patterson already had one meeting with the new president during the interview period and he says he was impressed with Nellis’ history of community involvement while President of Texas Tech University.

The Mayor, however, is concerned with the possibility that enrollment will continue to expand at Ohio University and the resultant high density of student housing in various parts of town. He mentioned that a new zoning category for some housing units may be necessary to promote safety and to deal with the issue of increased density.

The City also is getting ready to attack a resurfacing project on E. State St. from the overpass east to where it turns back to two-lanes near Holzer, according to Patterson.

The proposal seeks to narrow the driving lanes of East State Street and add a bike lane to each side of the street and a sidewalk on the south side. To achieve this, the middle lanes are to be narrowed from 12 feet to 10 feet width (allowed by the Ohio Department of Transportation). The 2 outside (curb lanes) will be narrowed to 11 feet. Bike lanes would be adjacent to the curbs and have 4 feet of asphalt next to the concrete curb.

Further information will be forthcoming soon to outline more details about this major work project.