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Committee favors more reconstruction of streets in Willmar

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Committee favors more reconstruction of streets in Willmar
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Willmar officials will research funding options to reconstruct more streets this year if the City Council accepts a committee recommendation.

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The Public Works/Safety Committee is recommending the council direct staff to research local funding options for a larger rather than smaller improvement program.

The key to proceeding with a 3.3-mile program, rather than a scaled-down 2.4-mile program, will be finding the city's $453,188 share of the $3,899,007 estimated cost. Under a policy adopted by the council in 1997, the city pays 25 percent of reconstruction costs. Benefited property owners pay the remaining 75 percent.

The larger program, which includes 1.2 miles of reconstruction, 1.7 miles of overlay and 0.4 of a mile of new construction, would help the city meet the annual goal of 1.5 miles of reconstruction and overlay to maintain adequate streets.

If the local share can't be found, the alternative is an estimated $2,835,312 program, with a local share of $24,217, to reconstruct half a mile and overlay 1.53 miles. Overlays are less costly. The remaining 0.2 of a mile is new construction.

The committee received details about the two programs this week from Public Works Director Mel Odens.

He also presented a history of street reconstruction and funding, going back to 1961 when street reconstruction began. Since 1998, the city has constructed, reconstructed, overlaid, seal-coated or crack-sealed 95.6 of its 132 miles of streets.

Every three years, Public Works Department employees conduct an independent review of city streets and each street is rated based on the information received. The rating system has helped establish the number of miles of reconstruction and overlay that should be performed each year, according to Odens.

From these ratings, staff developed a five-year proposed construction program through 2015 for committee consideration.

Committee Chairman Doug Reese has been advocating for a more aggressive street reconstruction program.

Reese said he appreciated the thorough presentation from staff, and the report will go the council Monday for approval.

"What this does is direct staff to find funding, how we fund it. I'm not saying we absolutely do it, but hopefully find funding to do it,'' Reese said in an interview.

The number of reconstructed miles has fluctuated over the years, depending mainly on availability of interest earnings from the Community Investment Fund, explained City Administrator Michael Schmit.

According to a street work history, the city reconstructed about 2.75 miles in 1998 but bottomed out at zero miles in 2002. The number rose to about 1.75 miles in 2004, dipped to about half a mile in 2008, and inched up to little more than a mile in 2009.

Although there will be no earnings this year from the Community Investment Fund because interest rates are down, staff will be researching other possibilities, including the idea of selling a bond issue paid with local property taxes, and using money in the utility replacement fund, according to Schmit.

The council will receive the Public Works/Safety Committee report during the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.

In other business, the council will receive comments during the open forum, receive the Finance Committee report, and consider the next phase of the Barr storm water report.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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