by Stephanie Dickrell
The St. Joseph City Council moved forward Monday, Feb. 4, with an estimated $2.2 million plan to improve and reconstruct city streets and underground utilities.
The council unanimously voted to order the projects Monday night, which will trigger work so the work can be put out for bids. The work is expected to begin this summer in six general areas of St. Joseph.
The improvements range from resurfacing roads to the complete reconstruction of roads and underground utilities, including sewer and water services.
Pond View Ridge, including 12th Avenue SE and Pond View Lane from roughly Baker Street to Dale Street, including Callaway Street E.
Fourth Avenue from CR 75 to Baker Street.
Parts of Elm Street adjacent to College Avenue, near the city’s water tower.
First Avenue Northwest, from Stearns CR 75 to Minnesota Street.
Birch Street and Ash Street from Second Avenue NW to College Avenue, with work on utilities continuing on Birch Street across College Avenue.
Parts of alleys between Memorial Park, Minnesota Street and First Avenue NW.
Cypress Drive and Old Stearns County Highway 52 from CR 75 to roughly Birch Street.
Jade Road, roughly from Kennedy Community School to Interstate 94.
The current condition of the road and underground utilities determined whether only routine maintenance or complete reconstruction was needed, said Randy Sabart, the city’s engineer.
“We tend to do the seal coats, the crack sealing and the overlays when the integrity of the street is still very good,”
Sabart said. “That sometimes is a concept that people will question. ‘Well, jeez, my street looks good right now. I don’t see a lot of potholes, or a lot of cracking. Why are you overlaying now?’”
Sabart said routine maintenance work can increase the life of road work from 20 years to up to 35 years.
“That’s the primary reason we don’t overlay streets which are already riddled with potholes and cracks,” he said. ”They’re too far gone at that point.”
Part of the cost of the project will be assessed to property owners who will directly benefit from the project, but final assessment amounts have yet to be determined. Per city policy, the city can assess up to 60 percent of project costs to property owners.
But in reality, the percentage is usually less than that, Sabart said. The city caps assessments by studying how much actual market value is added to properties by the construction work, he said.
At the hearing Monday night, attendees discussed the merits of the proposed projects. Homeowners raised questions about the speed and volume of traffic in residential neighborhoods, issues of water drainage and the potential high costs to certain homeowners.
Residents will be able to discuss assessment amounts at a public hearing when final numbers are available, which will likely be sometime in May.
Housing developments can make the assessment process more complicated. Developments are built over a longer period of time and roads and utilities are usually built in segments as well. So in the same neighborhood, the age and condition of roads can vary.
For example, parts of the roads in the Pond View Ridge development will only need maintenance, while others may need more significant repair. This results in differing costs to property owners, even though they’re in the same neighborhood.
For upgrades to sewer and water systems, engineers consider the age and type of pipes, and whether or not the pipes have been compromised. For example, clay pipes along parts of Old Stearns County Highway 52 are significantly compromised by tree roots, which could result in sewer backups.
“When we start to see root masses … like this — and these are fairly impenetrable — these cause (us) heartburn from a standpoint of sewer backup,” Sabart said. “Cities are used to having to combat to some level root intrusion. … But they don’t stop growing. Once the roots compromise the pipe, then it’s time for replacement.”
If all goes to plan, construction could start mid-July, following the city’s July 4 festivities. Because Stearns County may also be working on CR 75 around the same time, city planners will take that into consideration, to avoid as much traffic congestion as possible, Sabart said.
Construction could be mostly complete by November, with some finishing work in the spring of 2020, Sabart said.