BY ANDREAS BUTLER
A drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (MLK) from Orange Avenue to International Speedway Boulevard normally takes less than two minutes, but there are concerns that it will take a whole lot longer and will impact local businesses when road construction begins in that area.
The City of Daytona Beach held a public information meeting for the road improvement project on Tuesday night at the John. H. Dickerson Community Center. The roadway work is slated to start soon.
During the meeting, city staffers gave a PowerPoint presentation with details of the project and had artist renderings on display. The staffers also took some time to answers about the project.
The construction is expected to cost $2.6 million and take up to eight months to complete. Ground is expected to be broken on the project in July. The contractor is expected to have its order to begin work from the city by mid-June.
Roadwork will be scheduled for Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The road will be completely resurfaced, eight-feet sidewalks will be installed on both sides of the road, parking will be moved to the east side of the road, lighting will be improved, and light and utility poles will be moved to the outside of sidewalks.
In addition, the project will tighten and shorten the road to accommodate larger sidewalks. It will also address water mains, sewers, sanitary, service lines, manholes, etc.
Residents and businesses in the area have concerns about the project.
Daytona business owner Patricia Heard asked if the project in the Black community will be prioritized like it is in other areas.
“We intend to get this done as soon as possible and as efficiently as possible with the least amount of problems. A lot of stuff depends on what is underground when we dig. In the past, we dug up in the area and found all sorts of problems to deal with. We hope this runs as smooth as possible,” answered Kimberly Dixon, an engineer with the city’s Technical Services Division.
Dixon presided over the meeting and is the city’s project manager for the project.
Deborah Branch is concerned about her business – Lil Mama’s Kitchen – located on MLK at the corner with Magnolia Avenue.
“I am concerned how this will affect my business and if people will still be able to park in the back of my restaurant,” she noted.
Dixon responded, “There will be through traffic up through there, but you must expect closures during road construction. Yes, they can still park in the area behind your business, which isn’t on the construction part of the street. We will have detours set.”
Orange Avenue reminder
The proposed project was a reminder of the Orange Avenue project, which cost $13.4 million and was supposed to be done within two years but lingered to over three years. It nearly shut down several businesses and spurred lawsuits. It began in 2014 and lasted well into 2017.
The city, contractor, businesses and residents all want to avoid those experiences this time around.
Daytona Beach City Commissioner Paula Reed, who represents Zone 6, commented, “Our great concern here tonight is what happened with the Orange Avenue construction project. That shouldn’t happen here. We should go out and talk to the businesses.’’
“Small businesses are how people feed their families. Many can’t come to these meetings. Do we have other meetings? Many are just finding out about this. We don’t want businesses to suffer like they did during the Orange Avenue project.”
Minority hiring addressed
Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater wants to see minorities hired by contractors to work on the project especially, local African- Americans.
“We are concerned that minorities be hired, especially our locals here. In the past they say there would be, but that’s not always the case,’’ she related.
Matthew Sands is president of SanPik, the contractor and company hired for the construction. He attended the meeting and addressed minority hiring.
Sands replied, “We have a lot of minorities working at our company already. It is something that will be looked at and will be worked out once we set up our crews in this area.”
The city plans to do biweekly updates on the project on its website at www.codb.us.