by Dennis Dalman
After a standing-room-only public hearing at the May 24 Sartell City Council meeting, council members approved preliminary assessments on property owners for an ambitious reconstruction project along CR 1 (also known as Riverside Avenue).
There are 77 homes and businesses located along that stretch of road, from Sartell Street at the south end to 12th Street N. Some assessments will be as high as $8,000.
The project, estimated to cost $12.5 million will involve Stearns County reconstructing the road. In addition, the city will redo old water and sewer pipes, add bicycle paths, create a river overlook, changes or elimination of retaining walls in one area, flood-mitigation installations, controlled pedestrian crosswalks, parking changes at Veterans Park and installation of a pedestrian path across the old Sartell bridge. Construction will begin in spring of 2022.
Of the project cost, $7.5 million would be borne by Sartell. But after grant money and close to $900,000 in assessments, the city’s share of the cost would be reduced to an estimated $5.9 million.
About two dozen residents who live along Riverside Avenue expressed concerns about the project, with many of them strongly opposed to the plan to add more bicycle and walking paths. Some said the ones now there are rarely used, probably because of safety concerns about all the traffic on the road. Other concerns involved residents’ easy access to the Mississippi River being restricted, that a narrower road might lead to even more safety-traffic concerns, the possibility of old trees being cut down and questions about the need for new water and sewer pipes.
At the May 24 meeting, city engineer April Ryan explained the details of the project, the city’s assessment policy and answered other questions from residents.
Sartell City Administrator Anna Gruber suggested having an open house with a Stearns County representative available to explain why the proposed bike path would be moved to the east side of Riverside Ave. N. She said those changes would be undertaken regardless of whether the city participates in utility improvements because it is a county-led project.
After the hour-long public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve the ordering of plans for the project.