$1 million alley paving project would bring costs for neighbors

East Medford residents worry that they will lose fences, trees, a garage and anything else that stands in the right of way when a $1 million alley paving project rolls through their neighborhood.

The narrow, gravel alleys are located next to Pearl, Bessie, Effie, Marie, Mae and Mary streets between Jackson and Stevens streets.

To qualify for the federal money, the city needs to widen the alleys to a minimum of 16 feet. The project qualifies for the money because paving alleys lessens the amount of dust generated in the valley, which improves air quality.

"I spent $3,000 on this fence, and now I'm being told it will cost $1,600 to move it," said George Galan, a 32-year-old resident of a neighborhood just east of Crater Lake Avenue and north of Jackson Street.

Galan and 30 other neighbors have signed a petition asking the City Council to consider other options rather than disrupting the neighborhood by widening and paving the alleys.

"Legally, I guess I don't have a leg to stand on," Galan said. "If push comes to shove, I'll have to move my stuff."

Faced with neighborhood criticism, the council agreed last week to study other options, including possibly compensating property owners for the cost of moving fences or other structures in the right of way. However, the city doesn't normally compensate property owners for right-of-way intrusions.

The city has started to move utilities in advance of the paving project, which is being funded by federal dollars.

The city Public Works Department has sent out 434 letters to property owners and residents. But some properties have changed hands recently, so the new property owners might not have been aware of the issue, city officials said.

Letters from the city pointing out fences in rights of way have been sent to 15 property owners.

The city also requested construction easements from 64 properties to gain extra room for equipment and workers during the project.

Cory Crebbin, public works director, said he's delayed opening the bids for the project until the council provides him with more information on how to proceed.

If the city doesn't follow through on the project, it would lose about $1 million in federal dollars, he said.

Normally, alleys are supposed to be 18 feet wide, but the city worked with federal officials to make them 16 feet, Crebbin said.

The city also shifted the alley slightly in places to avoid fences and other structures, where possible.

"We have narrowed up the pavement section and meandered it to minimize the impacts," he said.

— Damian Mann

Read more in Thursday's Mail Tribune.

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