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Funding uncertainty crimps city's proposed street improvements

WILLMAR -- Funding uncertainty is crimping the city's 2009 proposed street improvements.

City Public Works Director Mel Odens said he deleted everything from a list of possible projects except those that can be done in coordination with other entities because funds from two important sources are lacking or not available.

One source is interest earnings from the community investment fund. Odens said earnings are virtually nonexistent because interest rates are down.

The interest earnings are used to provide the city's 25 percent match to the 75 percent cost assessed against property benefited by neighborhood street reconstruction projects.

"When the city does not have the ability to pay the match for the assessments, then obviously you can't do the project,'' said Odens.

The other source is the $200,000 placed in the $3.5 million property tax levy a couple of years ago to help fund new developments (such as Fifth Street Southeast). The funding may be tapped to cover cuts this year in Local Government Aid from the state.

"We had on the previous map a little over 2.8 miles of reconstruction and now we're down to under a mile in reconstruction,'' Odens said. In 2007, the city built and rebuilt 6.24 miles and in 2008 had a 4.23-mile program. This year's total of construction and reconstruction is 1.09 miles.

Odens said this year's four proposed reconstruction projects will be done in coordination with other entities. They are:

- 11th Street Southwest, from Trott Avenue to Litchfield Avenue Southwest. The street will be rebuilt during construction of sewer lines for the wastewater treatment project.

- Trott Avenue Southwest from 10th Street to 16th Street Southwest. The street will be rebuilt during construction of sewer lines for the wastewater treatment project.

- Willmar Avenue Southwest from 18th Street to 22nd Street Southwest. The street will be widened. The driving surface will be paid by Kandiyohi County (because Willmar Avenue is also County Road 23) and the city will pay for curb, gutter and utilities.

- County Road 24 and County Road 41. Both are county projects but the city will pay for part of the improvements.

Two new construction projects are proposed:

- Willmar Avenue Southwest from 22nd Street Southwest to state Highway 40. The street will be realigned to tie into the new Willmar Avenue section in the industrial park. The project includes storm sewer and new railroad crossing.

- A cul-de-sac on Fourth Avenue Southwest from 28th Street to 360 feet to the northwest.

Odens said Kandiyohi County has delayed indefinitely a reconstruction project on Willmar Avenue Southwest from First Street to 18th Street Southwest and is redirecting funds to another project.

As a result, city will not proceed with the proposed extension of large storm sewer pipe to provide additional storage capacity during heavy rainfall events in southwest Willmar, according to Odens.

He said Willmar Avenue is still drivable but the surface is in poor condition, and he said the city may do some maintenance patching there this summer.

Miscellaneous projects proposed are:

- First Street Bridge deck rehabilitation.

- 10th Street and Kandiyohi Avenue Southwest storm water improvements.

- 28th Street Southwest -- services to Humane Society building.

- Seal coating and crack sealing.

The City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee. voted to recommend the council set March 16 as the date for a public hearing on the projects.