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Ready for an inconvenient summer

By Staff | Nov 22, 2015

I think it was a little bit of a reality check for some downtown Blue Earth business people last Monday night at the City Council meeting.

This thing is really going to happen.

Next summer the two blocks of Main Street and one of Sixth Street are going to be torn up. And it will be for most of the summer.

I have lived through this experience before twice, in fact and it wasn’t pretty.

Both times I owned a newspaper and printing business smack dab in the middle of a Main Street right when the street was torn up, underground utilities replaced and new street surface and sidewalks were put in.

One of those went pretty smoothly. The other one, due to a really rainy summer, did not. In fact, the new sidewalks and first layer of bituminous were put in place in late October, right at Halloween, with snowflakes in the air.

The one ray of sunshine in both those cases was the remarkable loyalty of the townspeople, with many of them making it a point to continue to shop at the downtown businesses, despite the inconvenience.

I hope that happens here next year.

Blue Earth businesses heard at least one bit of good news at last Monday’s meeting.

City engineer Wes Brown stated he believed the contractor would keep the sidewalks in place for as long as possible during the project.

That was true in the two towns where I experienced a Main Street being torn up before. The sidewalks were the last item to be removed. And, when they were torn out, the contractor built walkways made of compacted gravel.

Parking, however, was the issue. Many folks used the side streets, alleys and back lots. Back entrances to stores were used as much, or more, than front doors, despite the sidewalks being there. Especially when massive mounds of dirt were piled high, and heavy equipment was moving up and down the street right in front of the stores.

The Blue Earth downtown businesses also received some other good news. While they will be assessed for the construction work in front of their buildings, the amount of the assessments will be similar to being a residential homeowner. Their assessment for streets and sidewalks will be just like someone on a 36-foot wide street with a 4 -foot wide sidewalk, not a business building on a 62-foot wide street with a 9-foot wide sidewalk.

It is still a hit, but not as large as it could have been. For instance, as the owners of one of the largest buildings in the construction area, the Faribault County Register is going to pay the second largest assessment, over $13,000. That’s a big number, but nowhere near as large as it might have been.

But there is more to the street issues that will impact Blue Earth residents next year.

The proverbial elephant in the room is the fact that another Main Street project is also slated for next summer.

The bridge over the Blue Earth River on North Main is going to be replaced, as well as the street being repaved from the bridge to Fairgrounds Road.

Getting around the city will be, shall we say, interesting next summer. We will all be finding alternate routes to get from here to there.

Perhaps it will be a good thing to get both projects over with at the same time. But it will make for a long summer.

I am also thinking of next July and Giant Days and the Faribault County Fair.

The fairgrounds could be down to one entrance, the one to the north by Walmart. And some of the events for Giant Days may have to be moved especially the Giant Parade, which in the past has gone right down Main Street and through that two block area that will be under construction.

It will be an inconvenient summer, no doubt.

But, both these projects are necessary, so we will put up with it.

The bridge needs to be replaced; the county engineer says it is nearly unsafe. Main Street needs new pavement we can all see that. And, the underground utilities are so bad that the crew running a video camera through the sewer line had to quit for fear of damaging the more than 60-year-old pipes.

And, when the project is all done, it will be a nice improvement.

Especially if there can be at least some effort made to add a few elements of ‘streetscape’ to make downtown Blue Earth a bit more attractive.

No, I haven’t given up on this quest, quite yet. It is a perfect opportunity to make some nice changes and I hope it gets done.

Stay tuned…