STRAW POLL CRUSHES BRICK WALKWAYS

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An eleventh-hour move by the owners of a handful of properties in the historic downtown district of Fair Haven to opt out of the sidewalk reconstruction project that begins this week failed last night.

Led by attorneys Brooks Van Arx, whose own office is in the district, and Roger Foss, the property owners asked the council for an exemption from a plan to replace all the walkways in the district with a stamped concrete material starting tomorrow. The aim, the lawyers said, was to preserve existing brick sidewalks at no cost to tbe borough.

“We believe it adds an historical flavor,” Von Arx said of the brick along River Road in the vicinity of DeNormandie Place. “It makes a beautiful, beautiful corner for that historic section of Fair Haven, and we think it’s worth preserving.”

But after borough engineer Rich Moralle (that’s him at the easel in the photo) raised issues of cost, timing, contract law and aesthetics, Mayor Mike Halfacre — who opposed the last-minute changes — called for a straw poll of the council that appeared to kill the alterations.

Councilman Jon Peters said that Von Arx’s request, if granted, would result in a “spotty, uneven” appearance of the planned streetscape, and would likely push the completion date of the sidewalk work past Memorial Day, something merchants are loathe to allow. Councilman Tom Schissler said that the majority of business owners in the district “don’t want this” change.

“If we had enough money, I would go with brick, but we don’t,” said Councilman Chris Walrath. Moralle said brick sidewalks would have increased the cost of the $600,000 streetscape makeover by about $300,000.

The council comments followed remarks by Foss that his client, Kenneth Motz, had spent $22,000 just last year to install brick along two sides of the Java Stop coffee house. “It’s brand new,” Foss said. “I don’t think it can be improved upon.”

Von Arx said the owners would be willing to pay for concrete while declining to have it installed. He added that he’d be willing to have his own brick walkway temporarily removed so that a concrete substrate and new curbs could be built.