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City Council approves study of street reconstruction financing options

Survey markers outline the area where Willmar Avenue Southwest was being reconstructed in October. The City Council this week directed officials to research funding options to reconstruct more city streets this year. Tribune file photo

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has directed staff to research funding options to reconstruct more streets this year.

The council wants staff to research funding options for a 3.3-mile street improvement program rather than a smaller 2.4-mile improvement program. Both programs were discussed by the council's Public Works/Safety Committee on Jan. 26 and committee members indicated they supported the larger program.

The key to proceeding with the larger 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 and benefited property owners pay 75 percent. The council has used interest earnings in the past from the Community Investment Fund to pay for the city's share.

However, earnings have fluctuated over the years and so has the number of miles of rebuilt streets. Public Works Director Mel Odens said earnings have ranged from $300,000 to $400,000 during the good years to no earnings predicted this year, due to the economic downturn.

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 five-year plan of rebuilding and overlaying 1.5 miles per year 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 in the smaller program is new construction.

Research of funding options was recommended by the Public Works/Safety Committee. Chairman Doug Reese told the council Monday night that the committee supports the more aggressive five-year plan.

In other business, the council:

- Approved a two-year contract with the accounting firm of Westberg and Eischens of Willmar to perform the 2009 and 2010 audit at a cost of $20,000 to $21,000 per year. The Finance Committee had discussed the possibility of seeking contract proposals from other firms, and the city has in the past received proposals from other firms. But City Administrator Michael Schmit explained Westberg has always submitted the lowest cost proposal because the firm has performed past audits for the city and is familiar with city records.

- Voted to move $17,000 from 2009 unaudited excess funds to the 2010 Public Works budget to pay for transmission repairs to the 2001 road grader.

- Approved a five-year, fixed-based operator agreement with Maximum Cruise Aviation of Willmar. The agreement lets Maximum Cruise Aviation act as the primary FBO at the municipal airport.

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