Highway 30 is easily known by its poor condition and while the project has been pushed back in recent years by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), preliminary work for the 2022 project is getting underway. At the Monday, August 26 meeting, the Rushford Council approved a formal request to participate in a MnDOT municipal agreement program. A Letter of Intent between the entities was also authorized.
City Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, was on hand at the meeting to discuss the history, scope, timeline, and financial aspects of the project. While Bolton & Menk will be involved in the design portion of the project, MnDOT is managing entity.
The initial layout phase is expected to extend through November of this year. Shortly after, layout alternatives will be reviewed and preliminary design phase will begin. City Administrator Tony Chladek noted efforts to protect city interests have been taken into consideration by MnDOT. “It’s been very professionally handled,” said Chladek.
The downtown area is likely to be the bulk of the alternative considerations. Economic Development Authority (EDA) and other groups would like to see a bike lane added, but it’s unclear at this time how that would be funded. A feasibility report would be presented to the city spring of 2020 with a public improvement hearing to follow. Final design phase is expected to be completed in August 2020 with bid letting the following February. Construction would tentatively begin May of 2022.
The current estimated cost of the project is $4.7 million, with the city share estimate at just under $2.2 million. Costs for the project have increased, but it was noted by Olinger that the city’s estimated share has decreased significantly in comparison to splits from early 2019.
While surface improvements including 24-foot of pavement, curb, and gutter are fully paid by the state, parking lane improvements are 90% state/10% city and street lighting is split by the two. Sidewalk improvements are generally fully funded by the state, however, it was noted sidewalk cost sharing is to be discussed in further detail. On the flip side, sidewalk extensions are the sole cost responsibility of the city. Landscaping of the affected areas will be split 98% city/2% state. Any additional minor cost sharing will also be determined later.
Utilities, including watermain and sanitary sewer, are fully funded by the city. The state will contribute 5% to storm sewer costs. The city portions of the project will be funded through bonding and assessments.
Additional agreements will be needed as the project moves forward, including a Partnership Agreement, including a detailed scope of work, and a Cooperative Construction Agreement, which clarifies semi-final cost shares. The latter will be signed after the project is bid.
Also needed will be right-of-way certificates in regards to temporary land easements. These are required by MnDOT to allow for encroachments onto private properties for the purpose of sidewalk construction. Once the easements are signed and certificates granted, appraisals will be done on the immediately affected tracts of land. $166,000 has been reserved in the project costs for easement acquisition.
In some areas of sidewalk improvement, particularly the north side of the roadway, steep slopes will require retaining walls. Olinger estimates there are 60 properties in the corridor and is expecting half will be affected, less if possible.
Mayor Chris Hallum questioned to whom the temporary easement belonged, seeing as MnDOT is the managing entity. “That’s a good question. It’s written into as in favor of city,” replied Onlinger. “Regardless, the manual says its a city item and they’ve made it very clear that if you want to move forward with the project its a city cost.”
Several public meetings for affected residents will be held as the project progresses. “We have to keep communication going,” noted Chladek. Public hearings for utility improvements and eventually, assessments, will also be held. The council approved the agreement and Letter of Intent unanimously.
The council also considered and approved a number of miscellaneous items including fire contract renewals with area townships. Rushford Fire Department Chief Chad Rasmussen presented a report of annual meetings and stated the .0165 tax capacity rate did not increase. The contracts with each township will be signed and submitted to the state.
Following approval of a franchise ordinance for AcenTek at the August 12 meeting, the city is working to update a similar ordinance for Mediacom. Until terms are agreed upon and approved, the city extended the current agreement until October 31 of this year.
Following a recommendation from the EDA to grant a $120,000 loan to L& L Volkman Auto Body/Leigh & Kayla Volkman. The terms are for 20 years at a rate of 2% interest. The purpose of the loan is to provide for aquistion and improvements to the business property at 905 Enterprise Drive.
“After looking at the information, with the history of business as well as future forecasting, I feel they have a good business plan. They have a strong business,” said Councilor Terri Benson. “It feels like a strong case to support them in this business decision. Their numbers were realistic. That’s what impressed me.”
Councilor Sally Ryman agreed, stating, “Their numbers look good and they’re committed to the community.”
Chladek also indicated the company had provided all required paperwork long in advance of when it was needed. “This gives them a whole year to ramp up a whole new operation. It allows them to generate more business.”
A number of openings remain on various city commissions, including one with Planning and Zoning; three with Airport Commission, two with Economic Development, and one with the Electric Commission.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, September 9, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.