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City committees move Lakeland project forward

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council’s Finance Committee and Public Works/Safety Committee took action this week to move the proposed Lakeland Drive improvement project forward.

The project will improve the smoothness of the pavement with a mill-and-overlay, provide sanitary sewer improvements, improve accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists with a new trail, improve traffic flow with new striping, and provide a proposed railroad crossing quiet zone, all between Civic Center Drive and Willmar Avenue Southeast.

The Public Works/Safety Committee discussed the project Tuesday and voted to recommend the council hold a hearing Jan. 6 to take comments from adjacent Lakeland Drive property owners and then order the project be constructed next summer.

The Finance Committee discussed the project Monday and voted to recommend the council revise the project’s budget downward from an estimated $6.6 million to $5,914,000.

The Finance Committee backed a recommendation by Finance Director Steve Okins to revise the budget because the council had previously scaled back the scope of the street portion of the project from a total reconstruction to a mill-and-overlay project.

The scope was scaled back after televising of a portion of the sewer line under Lakeland Drive indicated the condition of the line was not as bad as had been anticipated, said Okins.

Because televising revealed the line was still serviceable, officials and engineers decided not to replace the line, which eliminated the need to rebuild Lakeland Drive and reduced the street work to an overlay project.

One reason for establishing the budget was to notify the state Public Facilities Authority about that agency’s estimated $2,730,000 share of funding for the sewer portion of the project. That share would be a loan.

Other funding sources are state street aid: $2,042,000; and local option sales tax revenue for the bike path: $838,000.

The budget includes a $304,000 estimate for the proposed quiet zone at the BNSF Railway crossing. However, the source of that funding is uncertain right now. Okins said the council will have to determine the source.

One option would be allocating the cost from assessments paid by adjacent property owners. Okins said the use of assessments would directly affect the amount of street work the city could perform next year. He said those dollars are factored into a total financing package for street reconstruction.

Another option would be using capital funds slated for various projects next year.

Okins said the Lakeland Drive project is currently 60 percent designed and is scheduled for 90 percent in January. The Willmar engineering firm of Bollig Inc. is designing the project.

Officials will determine whether the quiet zone stays or is eliminated. Okins said the present budget estimate could change if the Public Works/Safety Committee decides to take out the quiet zone or the bike path.

“Those decisions will have to be made by Public Works/Public Safety as far as what the level of the project is,’’ he said.

A quiet zone funding source has not been determined because the city is waiting for a tighter cost estimate, said Bruce Peterson, interim public works director.

“We’ve had a few different cost estimates,’’ he said. “If the Lakeland Drive work was to be a full reconstruction, it would make some sense to build the quiet zone. But doing a mill-and-overlay up to the crossing is pretty easy.’’

Peterson said he does not know if the city has a long-range plan in place to fund quiet zones. Quiet zones are addressed in the five-year capital improvement plan. But the cost is an estimate and he said every crossing has variables that will increase or decrease the cost.

He said the Trott Avenue quiet zone was paid from capital improvement funds. The Willmar Avenue quiet zone will be paid with local option sales tax funds because it’s part of the airport redevelopment and industrial park change in that part of the city.

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