The Rushford City Council held a public hearing October 13 in regards to the Highway 30 Reconstruction Improvement Hearing. City Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, was on hand to answer questions from those in attendance. Four citizens were present at the meeting regarding the project, with two others attending virtually.
The project area is roughly 300-feet west of the intersection of Highway 30/Steven Avenue and Southview Court to the intersection of Highway 30/West Jessie Street and Highway 43/Mill Street. Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is leading the project in coordination with the city. Current plans include complete reconstruction of the road including curb, gutter, and sidewalks, as well as underground watermain, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer upgrades.
Utility services from the public right-of-way to the residence or business are the responsibility of the property owner. These costs are not included in proposed assessments. During construction, crews will look at the service lines and let property owners know if there’s any issues. Property owners can then coordinate with the contractor, via the city and Olinger, to get a price estimate and further information. Location of water shutoff valves was questioned at the meeting and it was noted they will be replaced and will remain in the right-of-way boulevard to allow city access if needed.
After multiple public input meetings, the proposed streets will be 40-feet, with the exception of the Southview Court intersection heading west, which will be just 34-feet and the commercial downtown district, which will extend to 48-feet. This will be a significant change for downtown, as the street is currently 54 to 60-feet wide. Narrowing it allows for expansion of sidewalk areas to bring the public walk in compliance with current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. Throughout the project area will be 12-foot travel lanes with 8-foot parking in residential areas and 10-foot parking lanes in the downtown district. There will be north-side street parking only from Southview Court westward.
Sidewalks will be five-feet in residential areas and extend on the south side of Highway 30, from Southview court to downtown, and on the north side from the intersection with Bluffview Road to downtown. In the commercial district, sidewalks will extend to ten-foot on the north side and 12-foot on the south side. All the existing public sidewalk within the project area will be replaced.
The total estimated cost for the project is just over $5.1 million with the state share being $2.8 million and the city share $2.3 million. Of the city share, a portion will be paid via assessments to property owners following the city’s assessment policy. Per the policy, street, sanitary, and watermain work is assessed at 30 percent, while sidewalks are assessed 100 percent to the property owner, based on the linear feet of the property. Totals for each individual property vary and estimates can be provided upon request.
Questions from those in attendance included clarification of retaining wall location and replacement. According to Olinger, one goal of the project is to address some slope issues and it’s the intent to minimize the slope to each property as much as possible. In the locations where a retaining wall exists, some will be left, while others will need to have the wall removed, pushed back and a new wall constructed. The state will secure a permanent easement for properties receiving new walls.
Trees are another issue for those affected by the project. Olinger indicated that wherever possible, existing trees will be left. However, trees in the right-of-way boulevard are greatly impacted by reconstruction with curb and underground utility near root systems. “We’ll only remove a tree if we absolutely have to,” he added. There are grant programs through the state for tree replacement which the city has utilized previously.
The question of natural gas line replacement was also brought up. That work is up to the gas company and is not part of the state’s plans, but the company will be notified of the project.
Additional questions from last week’s informational meeting were also presented by Olinger for council consideration. They included parking on currently concrete boulevard areas, shared driveways, utility service lines tied together for multiple properties, and the location of the north sidewalk as the roadway transitions from Stevens Avenue to Jessie Street near the Episocpal church. Olinger suggested not allowing leaving concrete areas for parking where new sidewalk will be as it can block sidewalk use. Shared driveways will be modified slightly to avoid long driveways, but other shared driveways will be left unless the property owners want them split. Utility lines that are currently tied together will be split into separate services. The sidewalk near the intersection of Stevens Avenue and Jessie Street will be routed away from its current location, instead following the road right-of-way to the intersection.
The stepped process is lengthy and construction won’t happen until spring 2022. Another hearing will be held once bids are received and awarded to approve final assessment costs. Property owners will have the option to pay off the assessment in full or part. Any unpaid assessment will be certified to the county for addition to property tax rolls. Details of that process will be discussed again as project construction gets closer.
Councilor Jim O’Donnell reiterated to the council that inflation costs are already figured into the project being 18 months out from construction. “The last few projects we started high and came in less. We hope that number goes down so you’re not having to plan in the opposite direction. Our goal is to be conservative in estimates,” added Olinger. The hearing closed after roughly 45 minutes of discussion. The council approved the resolution ordering improvements and preparation of final plans and specifications unanimously.
The council also approved further Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding allocation. City Clerk Kathy Zacher presented a cost breakdown for hazard pay related to time worked during the pandemic for Public Works, the police and fire departments, and the ambulance service. Those serving in these areas have a higher risk due to workplace and interaction with the public. “It’s a known fact that the virus exists at the sewer plant. They’re working in the environment all the time,” said Zacher. “They all have face to face working with the public.”
Public Works and the police department were provided an additional $2 per hour, beginning in mid-March and continuing through November. Because the fire department and ambulance service are paid a flat rate fee and per mile, they received $3 per run additional. Costs presented at the meeting were $30,981 – $16,582 for public works, $10,294 for the police department, $2,099 for the fire department and $2,006 for the ambulance service. Costs for the remainder of October and November were estimated by using historical data on costs. This total will be fine tuned when actual work hours and fire/ambulance runs totals are in. However, the $30,981 is a maximum. “It will undoubtedly be lower than that,” explained Zacher later. Any excess funds will just go into the pot to be divided up among other business grants that are dispersed. “The bottom line is basically that council recognized the additional risk of those employees during this pandemic and will compensate them something for that additional risk.”
Two additional business requests for CARES Act funding have also been received. The committee of Councilors Sally Ryman and Leigh Volkmann will meet to review the applications and determine a recommendation for the council. The council will then approve or deny the requests at the next council meeting, prior to any additional CARES Act funds needing to be turned over the the county November 15.
Five Rushford businesses were approved for Fillmore County’s CARES Act funding allocation. They include Norsland Lefse, WonderInk, Loken’s Inn, Rushford Dental, and Lyle’s Flooring. Each will receive $10,000 from the county.
“It does look like the county dispersed it throughout the county,” said City Administrator Tony Chladek. “There’s been a lot of different sources for funding.” Additional funds were provided to some businesses directly from the state.
“Some can feel intimidated in asking for help,” said Mayor Terri Benson regarding a comment about more businesses not applying for assistance. “It a pride thing and I get it.”
“Some of them are just overwhelmed,” added Ryman.
“It’s a new universe in a lot of ways,” said Chladek.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, October 26, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The meeting is open to the public.