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Council moves forward despite concerns

By Staff | Jan 31, 2011

Kathy Bailey

On a 5-1 vote, the Blue Earth City Council decided to move forward with a 10-block, $3.15 million street and utility project this summer.

The vote actually was to authorize plans and specs to be developed by the city engineer, and to advertise for bids for the work.

The lone dissenting vote came from Councilman Russ Erichsrud.

The decision to move forward came after a public hearing on Monday night, which was attended by more than 50 property owners in the project area.

Many of them voiced concerns about the project, questioning whether all of it was actually necessary and how it was going to be paid for.

City Engineer Bill Sayre of Bolton & Menk explained the project will cover water and sanitary sewer mains, storm sewer lines, sidewalks and street replacement.

The project includes Galbraith Street from Seventh to 14th streets, 10th Street from Moore to Ramsey, and 11th Street from Galbraith to Ramsey.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey explained how the project will be assessed.

The city will pick up the cost of the main lines, and 70 percent of the street cost.

“The homeowners are responsible for their lateral hook up lines from their property to the main,” Bailey says. “And, for 30 percent of the cost of the new street.”

Estimates are that a water line hook up will cost each homeowner $1,350; each sanitary sewer line $1,150; $77 per running foot of frontage for streets; $9.25 per foot of sidewalk.

Some of the residents expressed surprise or even shock when they learned their total assessment could be $7,000 to $9,000 or higher.

The assessment can be put on the property owner’s taxes, and spread out over 15 years.

Galbraith Street resident Nathan Larsen read a prepared statement to the council, requesting that more of the street repair be covered by United Hospital District.

“This road was destroyed because of construction of the new clinic,” Larsen says. “We think UHD should pay more of the $800,000 cost of the street.”

Bailey answered that UHD is paying an extra $227,000 to beef up the street to a 9-ton road, so it can be a truck route.

“This is in addition to the $100,000 in assessments they will pay for owning property in the project area,” Bailey says.

Larsen responded he felt the hospital should pay more, because they ruined the street.

Resident Rob Norman agreed.

“This street was fine before the construction started,” Norman says. “It was not even on the city’s five-year plan in 2007-2008.”

Another resident, Nancy Olson, was also upset her street has to be reconstructed due to the hospital construction.

“It is wonderful to have a nice hospital here,” she says. “But, they have not been a good neighbor. I think the City Council is more concerned about business (UHD) than they are about citizens.”

Dawn Fellows, an employee of Southern Minnesota Surgical, was concerned about the construction schedule, and access to their office.

“If Galbraith is torn up, how will we have access to our building?” she questioned.

Engineer Sayre explained a plan to put a north entrance off 10th Street into a parking lot adjoining Southern Minnesota Surgical.

That lot, however, is owned by UHD, Fellows pointed out.

“We have an agreement with UHD that you will be able to use that parking lot during construction, for access to your business,” Bailey says.

Fellows questioned who at UHD agreed to that proposal. Bailey says it was agreed upon with the UHD board at a recent joint meeting with the City Council.

Bailey told those present at the meeting that the council will have one more opportunity to vote whether to proceed with the project or not. That vote will come after the bids are received and before one is accepted.

“If the bids are too high, the council could decide not to proceed,” she says. “Or, they could decide to proceed with just part of the proposed work. They might decide to split it up into multiple years.”

One resident asked Sayre directly if he thought the whole project was necessary.

“Absolutely, yes,” he responded.