Rushford council holds public hearings on Street and Utility Improvement Project

By : 
Scott Bestul
Tri-County Record

Six residents of Rushford’s Brooklyn neighborhood visited the Rushford City Council meeting Monday, March 25, as the council held a public hearing to address the upcoming street/utility project in that neighborhood. The public hearing was among the final steps preceding this project, which has been in the planning stage since last year.

In other matters, the council revisited the topics of a new canoe launch, and a trail connecting the Root River Trail to the R-P School District property. The council also addressed issues affecting the Rushford Municipal Airport.

Street & Utility Project Public Hearing

As noted, the 2019 Street Utility Project that will address issues on Grove, N. Burr Oak and Walnut streets, has been in the planning stages since 2018. Derek Olinger, engineer with Bolton & Menk, Inc., was on hand to explain final plans and answer questions from residents in the affected area. Olinger walked the audience and the council through a PowerPoint presentation that detailed not only the project, but also the assessments residents would pay to help fund the costs.

According to Olinger, the project would be comprised of improvements to the street, water main, sanitary sewer and storm sewer. “The streets are in poor shape and need to be replaced,” Olinger said. “They’ll be torn up and re-graded to improve drainage, then replaced with bituminous pavement.” He noted that concrete curb-and-gutter would be installed, which would result in a slightly narrower (36’) road than before. Driveway aprons and private sidewalks would be replaced as needed. 

In addition to road/sidewalk repair, the project would include replacing existing water main with 8” PVC pipe, as well as valves, hydrants and fittings, and service to existing R/W lines. New PVC (8”) main line would also be installed for the sanitary sewer, and the storm sewer would be extended into Grove Street and result in additional inlet capacity. 

Olinger also guided discussion on assessments that would be levied on affected properties. While the city could assess property owners up to 30 percent of the project’s $1.8 million cost, the council had voted to decrease this percentage to 25.8 percent, the lowest amount possible required to secure bonding. Olinger noted that costs for individual property owners are calculated by dividing the lineal footage that abuts the project. “This equals a price per foot of about $60,” he said. Property owners on a corner lot are only assessed this per-foot cost on one side of the property; costs are reduced by 50 percent on the second side. Affected residents are able to avoid interest costs on their assessment by paying in full (or in part) before a Nov. 30, 2019, deadline. Payments can also be added to taxes over a 10-year period at 3.5 percent interest, calculated annually.

Comments and questions by attendees were relatively sparse and revolved around payment logistics, start dates, and practicalities of how the project would affect daily life during construction. Olinger noted that, since the project had not officially been awarded to the contractor (Zenke, Inc.), many of those details would be worked out once that step is complete. “Once we have the first walk-through, we’ll have another neighborhood meeting to discuss some of the logistics. In addition to having a project engineer, who will serve as your primary point-of-contact for questions, we’ll have a webpage devoted to the project where you can check on daily progress updates,” Olinger said. 

Clerk Kathy Zacher noted, “We’ve worked with them (Zenke) before, and they’ve been very good about working practical matters like trash pickup, etc., that makes life easier for people.” Following the hearing, the council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2019-029, adopting the Assessment Roll for the 2019 Street and Utility Improvement Project.

The council then held a public hearing pertaining to the 2019 Street and Utility Project: Lamplighters Lane. No citizens were present for this hearing. Only two properties are affected by this street/utility improvement, which will reclaim, grade, repave and install a trench drain on Lamplighters Lane. No utility improvements will be included in this project. The funding summary for this project is $95,000, with a total Assessment amount of $6,757.44. The council also adopted a minimum 25.8 percent assessable cost for this project. As with the above project, assessed property owners can avoid interest charges by paying all or part of the charges before Nov. 30, 2019.

With no citizens present for questions, the council briefly discussed this project. Councilor O’Donnell said “Accessibility is going to be an issue, with the steep hill leading up to the homes, and that is the only road in there.” Olinger noted that on a similar project in a different town, rides on an ATV were provided for residents, but the practicality and liability matters associated with such an arrangement would have to be worked out with the contractor and residents. The council also noted the importance of finishing the project in a timely manner. Following the close of the public hearing and discussion, the council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2019-030: Adopting the Assessment Roll for Street Improvement Project: Lamplighters Lane.

Trail Grant Application

In previous meetings, the council had discussed the possibility of applying for a DNR Outdoor Recreation Grant to connect an existing segment of the Root River Trail to the R-P school site and athletic complex. Interest in this grant application was contingent upon the R-P district’s commitment to cost-sharing the remaining construction costs not covered by grant funding, which total $110,000. The district has agreed to the cost-sharing, and in order to apply for the DNR grants, the council needed to adopt a resolution to that effect. The council agreed unanimously to do so by adopting Resolution 2019-028.

New canoe launch   

While the city has secured a grant from MnDot for the construction of an access road (the city is waiting on final approval on the roadway crossing of the dike, as well as engineering and wetlands studies from the Corps of Engineers), the council discussed the approval of the submission of a grant application with the Minnesota DNR for funding the construction of a parking lot and actual launch site. Bolton & Menk would apply for the DNR grant and Olinger presented a preliminary plan for the project should it be approved. After a brief discussion, the council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2019-032: Approving application to the (MN) DNR Outdoor Recreation Grant Program for the canoe launch project.

Airport Issues

Administrator Tony Chladek reported for the Airport Commission on plans to help fund the costs of maintaining the facility’s new fueling system. That system, consisting of two 4,000-gallon tanks, replaced an antiquated system built in the 1990’s. In addition to standard aviation gas, the system can also supply Jet A fuel for helicopters spraying local crop fields.

To help pay for maintenance and upkeep on the new system, the commission recommended an increase in the city’s 5-cent/gallon flowage fee to 15 cents/gallon. This increase would put Rushford in line with other municipal airports in the area, and result in increased flowage fees that would “aid in covering the annual airport maintenance costs, helping the airport to progress toward its goal of self-sufficiency while continuing to promote growth of the airport, community and region,” according to the report.

After reviewing the commission’s report and recommendations, the council voted to approve the new fueling system and an increase in the flowage fee to 15 cents/gallon.

In addition to the fueling issue, the Airport Commission recommended the adoption of a task order for improvements to the hangar area at the Rushford airport. The task order involves providing the City of Rushford with “design, bid documents, bidding assistance and construction administration” with a construction project that would address water/ice issues on hangar units on the east side.

The proposed project would “involve removing an approximately 15-foot by 13-foot section of bituminous pavement from in front of the east side of the T-hangar.” Existing base material would be excavated and a new foundation wall erected and fill/concrete work would be installed to remediate water backflow/icing issues associated with this area. The council approved Task Order #2017-1; a Master Services Agreement with Mead & Hunt, Inc., for the above project.

R-P district buildings 

The council read an excerpt from an e-mail from R-P Supt. Ehler and the R-P School Board Facilities Committee addressed to Admin. Chladek regarding the R-P school building in Rushford.

That e-mail noted the Facilities Committee recommendation to seek Requests For Proposal (RFP) from other parties (in addition to the City of Rushford) that might be interested in the buildings. The R-P School Board will consider any proposals until June 3, and vote on any submitted proposals by June 17.

According to the e-mail, “The board has received inquiries and interest by other individuals who have an interest in purchasing the buildings and property. The board has also received enough input and feedback from constituents that warrants the district to explore all viable options and possibilities.”

The council briefly discussed the contents of this e-mail. Councilor Benson noted, “I want to be respectful of the school, but I also want them to be aware of the research that went into our proposal.” Admin. Chladek said, “It shouldn’t be any surprise about what our plan is, and how we came about that plan. We’re hoping this is the second, and last, time they’re going through the RFP process.”

Schedule

The next meeting of the Rushford City Council is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 8. All members of the public are encouraged to attend.