Road collapse a danger to residents and motorists

By Frank Lewis

October 10, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

When something is referred to as - “it looks like a million dollars,” it usually means something positive. A portion of Oakland Boulevard in Sciotoville looks like a million dollars for all the wrong reasons, and now the city of Portsmouth is finding out that it will cost nearly $1 million to fix the problem, $998,000 to be exact.

Portsmouth Mayor David Malone called a special meeting of Portsmouth City Council on Oct. 3 to rush through an ordinance authorizing appropriation of $100,000 from the unencumbered balance of CIP Fund Number 301 to begin actions to correct the road slippage on Oakland Boulevard in Sciotoville and declaring that action to be an emergency. Council passed the measure.

At that meeting, Community Development Director Tracy Shearer said the estimated cost would be $998,000 and the city needed to immediately apply for grant funding, with the $100,000 being the city’s portion of the cost.

One of the residents of Oakland Boulevard is Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware, who told Council he is concerned with what the city would do if it does not get the grant to make the necessary repairs.

“Bonded indebtedness now, obviously is regulated because of the Charter change,” Ware said. “My concern is, do we have enough money with the city coffers to take care of this problem, absent bonded indebtedness and bonding. I think it’s time to think about alternative ways to fix this in the event this grant is turned down.”

Ware said he does not believe that road can survive another winter season. Residents call attention to the cracks that are now appearing more toward the middle of the road, which indicates it is just a matter of time before the road collapses even further back, making passage impossible.

Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill said there is no greater physical problem within the city that is more pressing than Oakland Boulevard.

“The thing that concerns me about not only that road, but a couple of other roads within the city is that back when those subdivisions were accepted by the city, the roads were never actually brought up to standards,” Sturgill said. “Those roads have no curbs. The roads were simply blacktopped, and on that hillside you stand the risk of water seeping underneath those roads and just falling over the hill, just like that has up there.”

Sturgill, and residents of the road, say the city has made several attempts to exacerbate the problem by putting asphalt and large boulders in the hole.

“But obviously this is going to take driving steel poles into the bank to try to keep this from happening again,” Sturgill said. “What was, at one time, probably a $100,000 problem is now almost a million dollars to fix it.”

Sturgill said a lot of people live up that road.

“There are at least five business owners up on that road that live past (above) where that road is caved in,” Sturgill said. “The Sherman’s are there, the Stapletons, the Motts, Pat Chamberlin, all of those people who have lived up there for years have quietly lived up there with that hole in their street since 2009-2010, and have, for the most part, been ignored.”

Sturgill said it was not long ago that he actually found out about the problem.

“For whatever unfortunate reason, that has just been left to fester, and that’s what we’re left with,” Sturgill said. “I didn’t even realize that this was an issue until I went up there looking for property that I might be interested in purchasing. I was on Council for well over a year before I ever knew that existed. None of those people ever called me to say, ‘look, Steve, we’ve got an issue up here on Oakland,’ and I went to school with most of those people. So they had just come to the impression that the city was going to ignore it and not fix it. But hopefully we’ve at least got a plan put together. If we don’t fix it we’re going to have all kinds of issues including sewer and potential EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) issues up there.”

At the same special session of City Council, Council adopted a resolution authorizing the city to prepare and submit an application to participate in the Ohio Public Works Commission State Capital Improvement and/or local transportation improvement program(s) and to execute contracts as required.

“If there are any issues about what are the priorities of the community to make sure the public safety is best served, that’s the place where we have to show that, yes, we realize that there is a problem there and we need to correct it,” Sturgill said.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.