by Logan Gruber
City engineer Terry Wotzka fielded some tough questions during the public forum at the May 11 city council meeting. Many residents came out to ask for clarification on how the project would progress, while others wished to vent their frustration with the process.
The project to improve the sewer, water main and streets, as well as add storm sewer and sidewalks on Eighth and Ninth Avenue S., has been in the works for some time now. The city council originally held a public hearing on Nov. 24, after a snowstorm prevented a hearing from being held on Nov. 10. The plans were approved on April 13 of this year, but the city attorney, Adam Ripple, advised the council to hold another public hearing before continuing to move forward, which was then scheduled for May 11. After hearing the public’s voice, the council would need four out of five votes to move forward with the plans.
Work was being considered for: Eighth Avenue S. from First Street S. to Fourth Street S.; Ninth Avenue S. from First Street S. to Fourth Street S.; Second Street S. from Summit Avenue to Ninth Avenue S.; Third Street S. from Summit Avenue to Ninth Avenue S.; and Half Street S. from Summit Avenue to Eighth Avenue S.
The total cost of the project is projected at just under $2.9 million. The improvement of the sanitary sewer is projected to cost $378,136. The addition of the storm sewer is projected at $243,486. The improvement of the water main is projected at $486,402. The cost of improving the street and adding the sidewalks is estimated at $1.78 million, all according to documents drawn up by Wotzka and SEH (Short, Elliot, Hendrickson, Inc.)
All residents who spoke live in the affected area.
“You’re boxing us in this summer,” said Wendy Wheeler, one of the first people at the podium during the forum. “I think most of us are concerned about how we will get in and out of our homes.”
Wotzka responded by saying the project will be split into three phases. Eighth Avenue and Ninth Avenue will be split into different phases so people will have access to their homes.
“Our inspector [Jeff Supan] will be out every day, so if you have concerns or special needs you can contact him,” Wotzka said.
A newsletter is also planned, to give people contact phone numbers and emails for project supervisors and inspectors, like Supan.
“When you say three phases,” Corinne Becker asked, “does that mean the entire process for phase one will be completed [before phase two begins]?”
“You hit the nail on the head,” Wotzka said.
“I’m shocked at what we are being levied,” Cynthia Stuart said. “My husband and I have a business [out of our home], and we won’t have a business if we won’t have access.”
Wotzka did say there will be times when the machines will be in front of people’s homes and people won’t have access, but at the end of the day they hope to have things back together. He also said they are aware of the Stuarts’ business, and took it into account.
Some residents were concerned about trees being removed. Wotzka said there are several properties where the replacement of clay pipe with PVC pipe will require the removal of some trees.
Becker wanted to know who would pay to take the trees down, since it costs a lot of money to do it.
“If it’s on a boulevard, it’s our cost,” Wotzka said. “If it’s beyond the right-of-way line, it’s the homeowner’s cost.”
Another resident said he wanted to know what the contingency plan is if the project isn’t completed before school, as the streets in question are near two schools.
“We monitor things through the length of the project,” Wotzka stated. “I talk to my inspector every day. I’ll meet with the contractor probably three to four times a week.”
Wotzka went on to say two phases will likely be completed by the time school begins, and one phase after.
City administrator Ross Olson chimed in after the public forum closed.
“I just want the public to know the city council – the voice of the people – is working in committees, debating the merits of various projects before they are brought before the full council,” Olson said.
The city council voted 5-0 in favor of appointing SEH as the engineer on the project, and having them prepare plans and specifications for making the improvements.
Later in the meeting, the council also appointed Larson Excavating Contractors, Inc. of Holdingford as the contractor on the project. Larson was the lowest bidder on the project.