At the April 11 meeting, the Rushford City Council received updates for the last prep stages of the Highway 30/Stevens Avenue Street & Utility Improvement Project. According to City Clerk Kathy Zacher, all legal documents and signatures have been filed as required and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) plans to begin construction May 9.
The council unanimously passed a resolution declaring the costs to be assessed and ordered preparation of the assessments. Total cost to be paid by the city is $1,723,000 and $584,000 of that will be assessed to property owners. Assessments will be payable in installments extending over a period of 10 years at a rate of 3.3%. It was noted that it’s standard practice to use a rate that is 1% over the bond rate.
A public hearing on the assessments was scheduled for May 9, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. Parcel specific notices are being mailed to the assessed property owners. The notice also explains the method of payment and options. A comparison of assessment charges 2009-2022 was presented to the council for review. “It’s to show you we’re pretty consistent with what people are charged,” said Zacher. “It does make a difference when MnDOT is involved. Even though the bid came in higher than they thought, what we’re going to be paying is close to what was estimated.”
Prior to the public hearing, the city will host an informational meeting for affected business and residential property owners. City Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, will present the scope of work and proposed amendments for the project. As the project is being put forward and led by MnDOT, Olinger has requested that MnDOT representatives attend the meeting as well. The informational meeting is scheduled for April 26, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at city hall.
A pre-construction meeting is also in the works. Updates will be provided as they’re made aware to the city by MnDOT. Stage 1 will affect areas from the intersection of Highway 43 to the intersection of Highway 30 and Stevens Ave, near the Episcopal Church. It’s anticipated that this stage will be complete by July 22. Stage 2 will affect areas from the same intersection to just west of the city limits.
City staff, MnDOT, and contractors had their first meeting April 11. A few things need to be completed prior to project start such as electric and media service near the State Bank and a new MN Energy gas line at the intersection of Elm Street and Highway 30 to be done as soon as possible.
“They will need to notify businesses if they intend to block businesses like they did before,” cautioned Councilor Sally Ryman. “People won’t go around the block and they’ll lose business. That’s the reality of it.” The city and Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber of Commerce are working with businesses to plan for business impacts.
In other news, the city has signed paperwork and submitted it to the Federal Aviation Administration and the state regarding several funding streams for the replacement of a hangar that was destroyed in a fire at the municipal airport in 2019. Last month, the council learned that due to increasing costs, there was a gap in the funding for the construction of the five-unit hangar. Mead & Hunt Engineer Matt Wagner worked with the city to help find the additional funding needed.
While not yet finalized, it appears that Airport Improvement Project funds, an Airport Rescue Grant under Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and a Non-primary Entitlement Block Grant will all be available to fund the project in addition to funds from the insurance settlement of the damages. That would leave just $25,000 needing to come from city coffers for the $1.146 million project.
“Some of this has to be finalized, but they’re very confident of receiving it,” explained Zacher. “He was told by the FAA to send it.” With federal funds involved, there are different guidelines the project must follow. Due to this added workload, the city will need to update the engineer’s contract. Matt Wagner will be attending a future meeting to discuss the details.
There is no date yet for construction and it’s unlikely it would happen this year as there’s still ground work to be done and because it may take additional time to order in materials. The FAA has given the city two years to complete the project before it would downgrade the airport’s classification status.
The council also heard the annual financial report, presented virtually by Smith Schafer & Associates principal, Jason Boynton. A PowerPoint presentation illustrated the city’s financial standings in all departments, as well as details of revenues and expenses. “The General Fund balance is in good shape,” noted Boynton. The unassigned fund balance is $927,978, 120% of 2021 expenditures. There is a Capital Improvement Fund balance of $964,776 available for future capital needs.
Lastly, Councilor Ryman gave an update regarding the recently held trail meetings at Peterson, Rushford Village, and Rushford. The development idea meetings were conducted by University of Wisconsin – La Crosse students to collect opinions and ideas of what people in the communities would like to see on public lands. Nothing official has been proposed.
According to Ryman, attendance at the meetings was low with nine in Peterson and 16 in Rushford Village. “There were two very avid bicyclists and that’s what they were looking for and two ATV riders wanting trails. They were very respectful that it should be out where it won’t bother people or cause erosion.”
A summary report from the students is expected this fall. “Not a lot of people showed up. It was the people who have a strong interest. I don’t even think it’s on the public’s radar,” speculated Ryman.
Mayor Terri Benson indicated she’d heard from a few community members about it. “They were intrigued,” she said.
“Not enough to attend,” responded Ryman.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.