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Cost and plans for Public Square concrete barriers questioned by Cleveland City Council

Council members are asking where Mayor Bibb plans to get $1.5 million toward $3 million cost of replacing jersey barriers with bollards.

CLEVELAND — They’ve been a political football and an eyesore for years. (Not to mention a source of ridicule.)

The concrete barricades were dropped on Public Square in 2017, just after the space underwent a makeover. And they have been on Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s agenda since last fall’s campaign.

Everybody agrees the barriers diminish the $50 million renovation of Public Square, which debuted in time for the Republican National Convention.

The six-acre space was redesigned for people, protests and play -- with wide sidewalks, large lawns and a water park. But Public Square is bisected by bus routes and surrounded by car traffic – which was cut off during the renovation.

Former Mayor Frank Jackson tried to keep busses off the square by blocking Superior Avenue. But federal transportation rules forced him to keep the roadway open to busses.

Then Jackson, citing new Homeland Security concerns, ordered the installation of the barriers and concrete planters around the square to block vehicles from potentially jumping the curb.

They have remained there ever since.

Bibb has proposed spending $1.5 million toward the $3 million cost of replacing the concrete barriers with less obtrusive steel poles, known as bollards.

On Monday, council members questioned city officials about the need for the extra security – and the cost of replacing the barriers:

“You know we just passed a budget that was $60 million income-to-revenue short,” Councilmember Brian Kazy said during a committee hearing. “Where, all of a sudden, did we come up with $1.5 million? This council deserves to know where this $1.5 million is going to come from.”

He also asked for details about the security threat that prompted the city to place the barriers on the square.

Councilmember Rebecca Maurer said she is reluctant to support the administration’s request for the money until she knows more about the exact source of the money, which is coming from the city’s general fund.

“I’m probably a 'no' on this without an understanding” about the allocation, she said.

Land Studio, a nonprofit planning group guiding the change on the square, said that the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Association, is kicking in $500,000 toward the redesign. It said that private donors are willing to pay for the remaining balance.

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