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An Escalating Problem: How Long Will the City Hold Us Down?

By Steve Barjaktarovich · July 12th, 2001 · Burning Questions
  Stairway to Heaven?
Geoff Raker

Stairway to Heaven?

How many city workers does it take to fix an escalator?

Never mind. First things first. How many city workers does it take to find out who is responsible for fixing an escalator?

Fountain Square is supposed to be the centerpiece of the city of Cincinnati, but it's also been home to an eyesore for at least the past six months, according to Mary Jarvis, who mans an information booth for the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau. The eyesore is the broken escalator at the back of Fountain Square -- facing the booth, facing the newly renovated Tyler Davidson Fountain, facing every visitor who might be drawn to the shops in the breezeway linking Fountain Square to Sixth Street.

Jarvis says she's made numerous phone calls to city officials, including the mayor's office, trying to get someone to fix the escalator, but nothing has happened so far. The escalator still isn't moving.

This is not the first time Jarvis has tried to get City Hall to help with what seemed to be a simple problem. She only recently got the bathroom signs she has been asking for. It's been five years since she first asked.

Finding out who is responsible for the escalator is hardly an elevating experience.

The staff at Fifth Third Bank on Fountain Square say they have no idea what's up, so to speak.

Calling City Hall initiates a telephone tour of city offices, several of whose employees say they don't know who handles the escalator. Each new call to City Hall generates different numbers to call, some leading to answering machines and some leading to yet another number to call.

At long last comes contact with the Division of Facility Management in the Department of Public Utilities, where Jeff Linneman says the escalator is being taken down and a staircase will be going up.

"Escalators are not supposed to run outdoors," Linneman says. "Especially in winter, it deteriorates."

(Memo to the folks at Paul Brown Stadium: Take note.)

This is good information, but it still provides no answer about why it's taken so long to complete or even start the project. Linneman explains that he's not the best person to give information on the escalator replacement, because the project has moved to the Transportation and Engineering Department. This, of course, means another number to call: the extension for John Deatrick.

Deatrick isn't available, but his receptionist provides another number to call, the extension for Bob Richardson.

Richardson says an architect with the city will call with information about the broken escalator. Who knows? Perhaps he will yet.

Richardson says the city does, in fact, want to replace the escalator with stairs.

"They're trying to get it done fast," he says.

Judging by the five years it took the city to put up signs for the restrooms on Fountain Square, perhaps six to seven months isn't so long to have an escalator blocked off, right in the city's symbolic living room. It's none too attractive, though.

You think people don't notice that kind of blight? Jarvis knows better.

"You are the second one in the last hour who has asked about that," she says. "I have completely given up on it."



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