New development almost a go
A proposed new housing development in Blue Earth near Lampert Lumber came closer to being a reality at last Monday’s Blue Earth City Council meeting.
But, it also hit two snags one minor and one major one. One snag was whether to have sidewalks in the new addition, while the other snag was just how the project would be funded and whether it should be attempted at all.
City engineer Wes Brown of Bolton and Menk gave an update on the progress of planning for the development.
“The latest plan is to do up to 38 lots, up five more than previously thought,” Brown told the council. “And we would be taking bids on the project for two phases.”
Brown explained that engineer’s estimates for Phase I and Phase II combined was at $2 million plus a little, back in February, and is now estimated at $2.57 million.
“Phase I alone was at $1.19 million back in February,” he said. “Now that is at $1.52 million.”
Brown went over a list of reasons for the increase in the estimated cost.
“We added some more lots and it is now a 15 percent larger area,” Brown said. “The area for the Blue Earth Light and Water substation was eliminated and turned it into more building lots for the project.”In addition, the length of the street work is 60 feet longer, there is 482,000 more yards of earth work needed to be done, and instead of one foot of topsoil being removed, it is now 1 1/2 feet. These things bring the cost of Phase I up by $252,700.
Other additional costs come from sidewalks at $43,000, sump pump hookups at $15,000 and $47,000 for a change in where the sanitary sewer line needs to go and installing a new pipe for an outlet for the retention pond.
It was the addition of having sidewalks that caused some questions from the council.
“Do we really need sidewalks there?” councilman Glenn Gaylord asked. “I have heard from lots of folks that they don’t like them and don’t want to maintain them or shovel snow off them.”
City administrator Tim Ibisch said the recommendation for sidewalks came from the Street Committee.
The council briefly discussed whether there is the need for sidewalks, and whether they should be installed right away or after housing construction is completed.
However, it was after Brown discussed the need to make any decisions on changes in the project soon, because bids would be let in September, that the big snag appeared.
“How are we funding this housing project?” councilman Russ Erichsrud questioned. “This is a huge commitment. Are we assessing for all this work? Assessing who?”
Ibisch said these would be deferred assessments, which would go into effect when a lot was sold and a house built on it.
“We could be spending down fund balances to finance this at first,” Ibisch added, agreeing it was a big commitment.
Councilman Gaylord said he wanted the council to look far into the future at the big picture.
“We can’t just look a couple of years down the road,” he said. “We need to be looking forward, way forward, like 20 years or more. This is why this is needed.”
Mayor Rick Scholtes agreed.
“We also need to market these lots and get them sold, to create a revenue stream,” he said. “When we get 40 lots sold and nice homes built on them, it will more than cover our costs (with property taxes) over and over for years to come.”
The council also received some news on one of their other two large projects the renovation of the wastewater treatment plant.
Engineer Brown reported that the contractor was expected to begin work in a couple of weeks on the $7.5 million project, and will have 400 working days to complete all the work.
The third large project is a new public works building. Plans for the structure are being drawn by an architectural firm at this time, with construction expected to begin next spring.