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Village sticks with road option, waits for input


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in Rushford Village Government

Having received detailed road management and improvement recommendations and plans, the Village moved forward the discussion of a potential $1 million bonding on an improvement option. At a Tuesday, February 24 special meeting, the council debated the merits of paving various roads and what impacts the upgrades could have financially for the city, both immediately and in future maintenance.

Original consideration to get all needed street work done, which includes resurfacing and paving of heavily traveled roads, amounted to $3.25 million, but the council quickly dismissed a plan of that magnitude. Last August, the council instead selected 14 potential street areas which included portions or all of Cooperative Way, Whitemore, Prospect, West Goodrich, Plummer, East Goodrich, Meadow, Aspen, Village Drive, Money Creek, Nordic Road, Ridgeview, and Highway 43 to Laura Lane. At that time, the council considered bonding not to exceed $550,000, but dismissed the idea later in the year in favor of in-depth engineering analysis to be done on County Line Road and waiting for a thorough road study to be completed on all areas.

Recommendation to the city from financial consultant Mike Bubany, suggested the city seek the maximum bonding this year for selected road projects. Project scope can be reduced, but bonding cannot be increased once roads are selected and brought forth at public hearing.

The city was presented with a third option at the Tuesday, March 4 meeting, which would put County Line Road back in the mix, increasing the bonding an additional $299,000. “We hashed it out then, now we’re hashing it out again,” cautioned Councilor Dennis Overland. “We jumped in kind of quick and found out it wasn’t the best idea. Now, to go back, we’re just going in a complete circle.”

County Line Road has several safety issues, namely a narrow section of roadway with a substandard culvert that is likely in need of guardrails. Councilor Gordon Johnson suggested that if the city pursued improvements on the road, that 150 feet on either side of the culvert remain crushed rock until the issues can be addressed completely. “It will reduce the speed and ensure that the road will get fixed to a standard.”

The road is also subject to extreme dust more maintenance that any other road in the Village, which was what kicked off much of the discussion on paving it. Continued sealcoating on the road, if paved, would cost $37,000 every three years, on top of the initial $299,000. “With pure hard numbers, it’s my standpoint right now, that it’s cheaper to maintain it than to pave at this point,” noted Mayor Dale Schwanke. “It would be a beautiful road and would address the dust issue, but it’s an extra $100 per $100,000 in taxes, and that’s just for this year. What will impact us now, what will impact us later, and can our constituents muster that up? The reality is, I don’t know if we can afford it.”

“I’d like to put Option 3 out there and let the people tell us what they’d like us to do,” suggested Johnson. “We’re not used to spending that kind of money. But, we made a decision at the last meeting to go with Option 2. It’s what was doable and that’s valid.”

The city will proceed with Option 2, potentially seeking $1 million in bonding for selected roads. A public hearing on the road improvements has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 1, during the regular council meeting. “I’d like to have the room packed,” added Shwanke. “I’d like to have input from the people paying the bill.

Continuing discussion on costs, the council sought clarification on an upcoming water rate increase. The rate is set to go up 50 cents following April 1 meter reading, as the city attempts to continue to control costs. It’s been suggested by consultant Bubany that the city may need a 10 percent hike to recapture costs, but it’s unclear at present whether or not figures used in the financial formula are current and include the construction rate. Should the number be accurate and costs still rising beyond generated revenue, the city will need to consider another raise in the rate, beyond what is scheduled.

Rates for refuse and recycling collection is also increasing for the city to the tune of $18,000. Harters Quick Clean Up service ran the numbers and presented the city with a breakdown. It was revealed that the company lost funds in serving the city under the last contract. Discussion over how to effectively save the city money was inclusive of ideas such as having the Village pick up and collect at the Village Hall and altering recyclable pickup, including alternating pick up every other week.

“Your route is unique,” noted Gary Harter. “It isn’t loading time, it’s the drive time. The savings wouldn’t be substantial. I have no firm answer off the top of my head.” It was acknowledged by Harters that if rural residences were picked up by the city and collected at the Village Hall there could be a true savings.

“When you start talking about an $18,000 increase, you have to ask, are we going to save enough to justify our time,” noted Johnson. “It’s a discussion we need to have. I understand you can’t do business if you’re losing money and we can’t expect you to do it for less.”

“When you do it the way we do it, it’s the cheapest; unless you’re eliminating stops or eliminating services,” added Harter.

Both the council and Harters were agreeable to accepting the current contract, with increases, while leaving an opportunity for contract modification if savings can be found for the city. “I’m open-minded and willing to talk,” added Harter. “But, we’re not going to go back down to making no money. If we’re talking about talking about some savings for both of us, I’m all in favor of that. It’s really to my advantage.”

In other news, Mayor Schwanke and Councilor Hamilton Peterson reported an amicable meeting with Peterson mayor and council representative regarding the detachment/annexation issue facing the two cities, per the last council recommendation on the matter. “There was some give, some take. They’ll be taking some things to their next city council meeting and their attorneys more than likely,” said Schwanke. “Our whole goal here is to find a local resolution.”

“If they turn a deaf ear, they’re forcing us to play our hand,” stressed Johnson. “We can do nothing or let a law judge decide.”

“We can agree to disagree,” added Schwanke. “It doesn’t have to ruin our relationship. It’s a reasonable discussion if we can accomplish something.”

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, March 25, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. Please note the change from the third Tuesday to the fourth for this meeting. The public is encouraged to attend.

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