homepage logo

BE City Council debates streets

By Staff | Jan 27, 2013

The Blue Earth City Council is going to have to make a decision on how wide of a street they want on one of their projects this summer.

And, whether to have a sidewalk, trail or pathway to go with it.

At their first meeting of the new year the council heard a recommendation from the city engineer to have a 36-foot-wide street and separate sidewalk/trail for the project on Highland Drive.

They decided to have the street committee explore some alternate possibilities, including going with a narrower 30-foot-wide street with parking on just one side.

They did, and the council studied three options at their work session this past Monday night.

Option one remains the same, with a 36-foot-wide street that would have two lanes of traffic and room for parking on both sides of the street.

It includes the separate walking path/sidewalk.

The cost of that option is just over $1 million.

Option two goes with a 30-foot-wide street and keeps the separate sidewalk.

Estimated cost is $900,000 a savings of over $100,000.

“But the street committee has a third option they are recommending,” City Engineer Wes Brown explained.

Option three keeps the street at 36 feet wide, but eliminates the separate sidewalk/trail.

“Instead, the street would have two lanes of traffic, parking on one side only, and a walking/biking path on the other side of the street instead of parking.”

The cost of option three was estimated at $900,000 as well. The $100,000 savings is due to eliminating the sidewalk, which was also going to require some landscape work.

Mayor Rick Scholtes, also a member of the street committee, says the group favors this third option.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey also spoke in favor, and made another point about keeping the 36- foot-wide street.

“Our current assessment policy calls for us to assess the landowners for a 36-foot-wide standard 9-ton paved street no matter what it actually is,” she explained. “And we do this as an average cost of the last three projects.”

So, Bailey says, the property owners on the street will be paying for a 36-foot-wide street, even if a narrower one is built.

“When we put in concrete streets that could handle truck traffic, the homeowners were still just assessed for a standard street,” she says.

Councilman Dan Brod had a concern about safety.

“Do we really want kids walking and biking on the street?” he questioned. Mayor Scholtes replied that the bike lane would be clearly marked. Councilman Glenn Gaylord said he felt it was important to learn what the residents of the street felt about it.

Another concern by the council dealt with keeping the street open to local traffic during construction. And, having access for emergency vehicles if needed.

“We can make that part of the contract,” Brown says. “But we don’t want to be too specific. The contractor has to have some flexibility depending on where they are in the schedule.”

Weather will also be a factor, Brown says.

The council did not take any action on the matter as it was a work session. However, they will have to make a decision before the project actually proceeds to bids.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the council:

Held a public hearing on two bond issues and then voted to move forward with both of them.

One would be a refunding of the Public Safety Building construction bond, for $950,000.

The new interest rate on the bonds is expected to be at 2 percent and should save the city over $149,000 over the current rate of 4.7 percent.

The other bond is a $1.5 million Capital Improvement Program bond, which will cover a variety of equipment and other purchases for 2014-2017.

Accepted a list of quarterly donations to the city that included $50,000 from the Pool Committee to help pay off the bond on the new pool.

Voted to raise the fee for a fire call from the current $750 to $1,000 as had been previously agreed to.

All of the other fire departments in the county have also gone to a $1,000 fire call fee.