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BE votes to proceed with $2 M project

Decision comes after public hearing for Walnut, Hood street work

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Dec 6, 2020

City engineer Wes Brown explains the project as mayor Rick Scholtes (far left) and city attorney David Frundt listen.

The Blue Earth City Council had a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 30, with just two things on the agenda.

One was to hold a special public hearing for the Walnut, Third and Hood Street Improvements project slated for the summer of 2021.

Eight residents of the affected area attended the hearing in person, while two more had phoned into the meeting.

City engineer Wes Brown, of Bolton and Menk, went through a detailed presentation of the project, which will include some underground utility improvements, as well as reconstruction of the affected streets including curb and gutter.

Brown explained that some of the underground lines are from the 1980s, but others are from the 1940s and need to be replaced.

“We will also be making some improvements to the water line system, as well,” Brown said. “There is no watermain on Walnut, and there are several long services to the houses from other streets.”

He clarified that while curb and gutter would be installed, there would not be any sidewalks put in, as there are none now.

The total estimated cost of the project is $2,016,910, with the portion of that amount assessed to property owners set at $378,306.

That total breaks down to: $1,152,125 for streets, with the city paying $860,478 and property owners $291,646; storm sewer at $279,765, all covered by the city and none assessed; sanitary sewer at $318,650 with the city paying $272,450 and property owners $46,200; watermains at $266,370 with the city portion $225,910 and property owners at $40,460.

An assessment list of how much each property owner will be assessed, was handed out to those at the meeting.

Brown explained the city’s assessment policy, which includes property owners paying for their hookups for water and sewer, but the watermains and sewer mains are paid by the city, using utility fee funds.

“Streets are assessed with the city paying 70 percent of the cost and the property owner paying 30 percent,” Brown said. “All of the amounts are based on a three-year average cost.”

He also explained the actual assessments would be very close to those presented Monday night.

The project schedule is to advertise for bids in March of 2021, awarding the contract in April, then construction from June through October of 2021.

“It is possible they would start in May,” Brown said. “And be finished a little earlier. A final assessment hearing would not be until the next year, in August 2022.”

He explained the assessments could be put on the property taxes after that, with a 15 year schedule at an interest rate of 1.5 percent over the interest rate of the construction bond.

There were several questions from the residents in attendance, with several wondering about the accessibility to their homes during the summer. Brown said there would be times that access will be limited.

“If you have special needs please let us know, and we will try and work with that,” Brown explained. “And once the gravel is installed, before paving, it will be accessible.”

Some in attendance asked about where to park and the discussion included possible signs to reserve some side street areas for parking for those affected by the construction.

Another concern was the width of the street, which Brown said would be the standard 36-foot wide residential street.

“There are a number of houses on North Hood Street which are very close to the street right-of-way,” he said. “We may have to adjust where the centerline of the street will be. It could be farther to the west.”

Residents also expressed some concern over losing some trees to the project, moving mailboxes, and also possibly needing to build retaining walls due to the new street.

The only other item on the agenda was to accept a recommendation for a new hire at City Hall.

City administrator Mary Kennedy told the council that the recommendation was to hire Rayne Hanevik for the position of office specialist. She would be replacing Bonnie Ankeny who is retiring.

Hanevik would start on Dec. 28 and would be at step two on the pay rate scale, due to her experience and background, which would be $19.04 per hour.

The council voted to hire Hanevik, with mayor Rick Scholtes abstaining from the vote.