W’bago prepares for new streets
Only one resolution was passed by the Winnebago City Council at a special meeting held Tuesday, Nov. 20, but it was a big one.
By unanimous vote, resolution 667-2018 was passed. In doing so, the council awarded the bid for the Northwest Area Street and Utility Improvements Project, commonly referred to as the Northwest Project.
The bid, which came in at $8,902,598, was awarded to Holtmeier Construction, Inc. of Mankato.
The construction will start in the spring of 2019 and take a year to a year and a half to complete.
Prior to the meeting, there was a two hour time period set aside to allow residents of Winnebago the opportunity to visit with council members and Travis Winter, the city engineer. This provided citizens the opportunity to have specific questions answered concerning the project.
Before the vote was taken at the meeting, the council asked those in attendance for any more comments regarding the proposed street project.
One concern brought before the council dealt with the ability for an elderly person living on a fixed income to be able to afford the cost they would incur because of the project.
Winter noted that there are provisions to defer assessments based on age and income. More information will be made available in the coming weeks to better explain those provisions.
The possibility of rebidding the project with the hope of receiving a lower bid was discussed.
Council member Scott Robertson stated, “The tariffs right now are 10 percent, yesterday our president talked about raising them to 25 percent, if that happens, prices could go higher.”
Fellow council member Jean Anderson added, “I think we have spent a lot of time and energy looking at this. As we all know, things are changing on a constant basis. It could be a good thing to rebid but it might not. At this point I would not want to rebid, I want to get started and do the right thing for the future of Winnebago.”
Concern was also expressed about the width of the streets. The streets are to be 40 feet wide and the question was raised if narrowing the streets would save money.
Anderson addressed this issue by stating part of the reason for the wider streets is for safety.
“If cars park on both sides of the street it can be very dangerous, you can’t pass each other,” Anderson explained.
City administrator Chris Ziegler reminded those in attendance there will not be sidewalks included with this project, so pedestrians and bicyclists will be more apt to use the streets and thus the wider streets will be a safer option.
This is the first time in the history of Winnebago that the whole town is helping pay for a project like this and not just those residents who live in the affected area.
“It has been our goal the entire time to do this job right, to make sure everyone still has water, still has sewer, and that the water is kept out of their basements,” Councilman Rick Johnson commented,
Paul Loomis, a Winnebago resident said, “I have vacant lots in the affected area. Some of the people that live in the area were against this proposal back in 1986 and 1987. The engineering was done and the cost of the project would have been around 1.2 million dollars and the city council at that time voted it down.”
Loomis continued, “Now, here we are, over 25 years later and the cost is closer to 10 million dollars. The houses that were there back then will now have better water, better sewer and be worth more with these improvements.”
“For a long time I didn’t know how I would vote on this.?I feel sorry for you guys that are making the decision. After seeing what happened and how we turned back money that we could’ve used to get this thing done 25 years ago, I am now in favor of the project,” Loomis said.
The council also discussed the purchase of the former Winnebago High School from the Blue Earth Area School District.
Details are still being worked out between both parties so there was no vote on the purchase agreement at this time.