CUMBERLAND — Around 30 Haystack Mountain residents attended a presentation and questions and answers session Tuesday on the demolition of the former Sacred Heart Hospital complex with traffic flow being a top concern for many.
The former hospital is being razed to make way for a new $40 million Allegany High School, which officials expect will open in the fall of 2017.
The meeting, held in the Allegany High School auditorium, was hosted by David Cox, superintendent of schools, along with Vince Montana, director of facilities for the school system, Ray Rase, civil engineer with SPECS Inc. and Scott Eschbach of Grimm and Parker, architects for the new school.
Although the meeting was to focus on how the demolition portion of the project will impact the neighborhoods in the area, questions were also raised concerning the logistics of having two schools — Allegany and Bishop Walsh — essentially side by side.
One attendee asked about problems that could stem from both schools opening and dismissing students at the same time.
Montana said that the school board could take a look at staggering the times to alleviate traffic. However, he said the new Allegany will have less of an impact than the former hospital.
“There will be far less traffic with the school than the hospital,” said Montana.
The hospital operated three shifts and had about 900 parking spaces. Montana said the school will have a footprint of around one-third the size.
The main focus of the meeting was the traffic and conditions expected during the two-year demolition and construction phases.
“The actual demolition phase will be around 20 to 24 weeks and should be done in July,” said Eschbach.
During the period, cul-de-sacs will be constructed on Seton Drive and Bishop Walsh Road just past the access points of the last residences and businesses to prevent unnecessary local traffic from accessing the construction site.
Multiple residents expressed concerns that the angle of Bishop Walsh Road was not perpendicular nor even with Seton Drive, forcing drivers on Bishop Walsh Road to pull out to see traffic before merging onto Seton Drive.
“It can be dangerous. It’s not safe there,” said one resident.
The officials agreed that the intersection would need to be reviewed.
Another resident requested that a current traffic study be done.
Attendees also asked about dust and sound pollution.
Officials said dust would be kept to a minimum by utilizing moisture, but some noise pollution would be unavoidable, especially when concrete is being crushed to be used as fill. Attendees were assured no loud crushing operations would be conducted during evening and nighttime hours.
Rase could not rule out the use of explosives. However, he said that they would be tightly controlled if utilized.
“We will try not to do any blasting. Sometimes you can’t do that,” he said.
However, Rase said there would be no large implodes and any blasting would be monitored by the fire marshal. He also pointed out that explosives were used in area demolition and construction projects more frequently than some realized.
Officials also quelled a rumor that the Lions Manor Nursing Home would be closing down.
“They have a lease for that property. We own the property but they have a lease and will continue to operate there,” said Cox.
Rase also said that residents of the area should expect no interruption of utilities during demolition and construction.
Official said the condition of the roads due to heavy bus usage will fall under the responsibility of the city. The city will have to monitor Braddock Road as well as Seton Drive and Bishop Walsh Road.
“One benefit of the project will be storm water management. I know there have been issues with that for quite a while,” said Montana.
Montana said the smaller footprint of the school and the subsequent storm water abatement work should help storm runoff issues affecting neighborhoods below the school site.
One resident asked why some of the hospital buildings could not be used for the new school.
Eschbach said the needs of a high school were different and the current buildings would not meet code for a high school. He said trying to repurpose the existing buildings would have been cost prohibitive.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.