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Rushford opens up discussion on Highway 43 project


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Feb 8th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Government

The state has slated 2014 for a major overhaul of Highway 43 running through the heart of Rushford. According to WHKS project engineer Tim Hruska, the cooperative effort between the city and MNDoT must be done due to rapidly aging water and utility needs. “The water in this area was installed in 1895 and we have records of sewer being installed as late as 1938. It’s badly in need of repair. There are sections of roadway that are deteriorating as well that will needs to be replaced in applicable areas.”

There is municipal agreement program between the city and state, which is why the project is being done per MNDoT schedule. “The city has a need for infrastructure,” added Hruska. “MNDoT has a need for the highway. This is both entities having a need a teaming together fund project all at once.”

MNDoT is also looking at the project leading up to environmental work which needs to be conducted, namely looking for potentially contaminated sites. “Phase One will be a documentation and site review,” continued Hruska. “Phase Two will entail physical exploration on site, including soil borings to determine the extent of any contamination. We need to know what we’re dealing with.”

Three representatives from MNDoT were on hand at a city hosted open house for the public regarding the project; head of design Mike Kempinger, project manager Jeff Bunch, and public relations director Kristin Kammueller. The group spoke with roughly 30 to 50 residents and business owners about the project to gather suggestions and field questions of concern. The project details and schedule are, at this point, preliminary.

The next step is a geometric layout, including the affected sections. Preliminary plan submittal is slated for April and a second public meeting will likely be held in May. Once utility coordination is in place, formal plan submittal and cooperative agreements for funding will be worked through between August and October. Final plans will be turned into MNDoT in October to make way for January 2014 bid letting. At that point, the project engineers will return to the city to get approval for the geometric layout. Preliminary assessment proceedings for the project are expected in April and a public input meeting, with the selected contractor on board, is slated for May or June 2014. Construction would start as road restrictions come off and hopefully finish by October.

According to Hruska, the state has allocated $1.5 million for the project. Some of the total project funding will be paid at 100 percent by MNDoT, while some will be a 90/10 split. Still other aspects, depending on allocation, will be 100 percent city cost.

The project is expected to have two crews working simultaneously, with one likely working from Highway 16 to Jesse Street/Highway 30 and the other from north of the school to Winona Street. “We’re dealing with the balance of looking at trying to avoid the school until after it’s done for the year. We’re also hoping to do that with the elevator to have that section opened back up by harvest time,” said Hruska. “We’re trying to minimize the disturbance to everyone and in the smallest window possible. We’ll have a better idea after the preliminary plans of how we’re going to piece together the construction phases.

Kammueller will be working to head up a business group aimed at maintaining business vitality during the process. “We’d like to get ball rolling ahead of curve to help keep businesses alive. We’re doing this up front, over a year in advance,” added Hruska.

The city council has approved preliminary proceedings for another key city project, which could bring a 20-unit motel to downtown. The Phase One environmental study is aimed at city property west of the police and fire station and immediately south of the historic depot grounds. Unknown soil conditions of the site are critical not only to the potential project, but any development that would otherwise take place on the site.

“In my opinion, the city needs to provide a study to confirm the soil condition of site and conduct Phase One so we’re sure we’re selling property that doesn’t have issue,” cautioned City Administrator Steve Sarvi. “We don’t believe there is any issue, based upon past useage, but we’d like to be able to rule it out.”

The total cost of the study, per the city engineer, is $7,353. A work plan from Braun Intertec is expected. The issue stems from a soil analysis from 1998 which indicates it may not be strong enough for a construction. Should the soils need to be remedied at a cost prohibitive to build there, it’s clear the city will have an on-going problem with lot.

The developer has indicated that he’s going to move forward with project and is currently working on a final financing package. The builder has been selected. “He’s followed through, a long way to get here, which is good. He’s being very diligent. I believe he’s ready to go,” added Sarvi.

The city has entered into a contractual agreement with the City of Rushford Village to provide police services. Service will be in response to dispatched calls from the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department only and only for emergencies. The purpose of the agreement is to provide clear understanding and terms of compensation for the city should police be called to outside city limits.

“We’re not getting called out often, but it’s only fair that when we do, the taxpayers are being compensated,” noted Sarvi. “It’s not a money maker for us, but it’s not a money loser either.”

The city is not expected to see any change in costs to its insurance and the formula calls for a $41 per hour compensation. “This is an interim step,” added Sarvi. “We will have to evaluate as time goes by. It may, at some point, require a completely different policing model.”

Should the sheriff’s office need to dispatch, it will look first to see who is closest to respond. From there, if the Rushford Police Department because active in that dispatch and another need arises within the city, the sheriff’s office has promised to extend the courtesy and send someone to backfill the need.

“It’s a good start and we’re ready to move forward,” noted Police Chief Adam Eide. The contract will not take effect until after the Village council formally approves the agreement, which is likely not until March.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, February 25, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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