There is such a thing as a free lunch.
Thursday from 11 a.m. until about 1 p.m. free lunches were served on South Ann Arbor Street in downtown Saline. It was an opportunity for local business owners and residents to view the new streetscape improvements and to celebrate the halfway point in the whole Michigan Avenue project.
The celebration was organized by Saline Main Street and the City of Saline. Saline Main Street people handed out lunches and drew numbers for a raffle. Raffle winners received gift cards to downtown businesses.
Wally MacNeil of Mac’s Acadian Seafood Shack prepared the sandwiches that were packed in boxes along with chips, an apple and a cookie. Two hundred lunches were prepared and most or all were used. A number of the road workers from Hoffman Brothers also picked up free food.
Mayor Marl was not able to attend the gathering because he was away in Grand Rapids on city business. Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads offered a few remarks.
Rhoads said he wished to thank the workers for keeping the project moving and maintaining access to businesses. He also wanted to thank the businesses for continuing to work through the process and to thank the townspeople for coming downtown to support them.
The Michigan Avenue construction and streetscape project is about three weeks behind schedule. Hoffman Brothers has asked MDOT for an extension, but MDOT has not said if they will allow the request.
“It’s an incentivized job,” City Manager Todd Campbell said. “So for every day they are early they get a $10,000 bonus up to 10 days. For every day that they are late I think it’s two or three thousand a day cost to them.”
Apparently the contractor is increasing the number of hours workers spend on the job each day. It is in their interest.
One downtown business owner said that the laying and relaying of street-side bricks has been particularly frustrating. They seem to be mostly done and then they remove the bricks and start over.
“The crew went through a little ‘practice and method’ phase,” said City Engineer Gary Roubal.
He said they first laid out the bricks just for confirmation of the layout look. Then they reset them, but started the pattern at the curb instead of the walk resulting in cut bricks adjacent to the sidewalk, so they had to be redone again.
Although they put down asphalt under the bricks, it is supposed to be a permeable asphalt, so water can still drain through it. This will help water the trees that will be replanted and reduce runoff onto the street.
This phase of the brick work is now scheduled to be done by early this week. Saline residents are urged to remain patient and continue to support downtown merchants.