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Trott Avenue railroad crossing safety project placed on funding list

WILLMAR -- A safety improvement project is being proposed for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway crossing on Trott Avenue Southwest. The project involves replacing the crossing's cantilever lights with gates.

Federal funds will pay for $256,500 of the $285,000 estimated cost; Willmar's share would be $28,500, according to Mel Odens, city public works director.

Funding for the Trott Avenue project became eligible under the Minnesota Department of Transportation's State Transportation Improvement Program after a safety project at the County Road 1 crossing in Pennock was removed from the program's list because the Pennock project will be funded from other sources, Odens said.

The Trott Avenue project will be funded in fiscal year 2013. Odens recommends the project be included in the city's 2012 or 2013 street improvement program.

He also recommends the city spend about $45,000 to construct medians on either side of the crossing to make the crossing a quiet zone when the new crossing gates are installed.

Odens said the local match plus the cost of the medians are state-aid eligible because Trott Avenue is a state-aid street. "So our local share could be reimbursed through the municipal state aid account,'' he said.

The City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee voted Tuesday to authorize the state to include the Trott Avenue crossing on the state list and agree to pay for the city's local share.

In other business, the committee recommended the council oppose a proposed change in state law that would let cities use lodging taxes collected for tourism promotion for any permitted municipal purpose such as filling street potholes.

Along with opposing the change, the resolution adopted by the committee supports present state law that lets cities spend 95 percent of gross lodging tax to fund a local convention or tourism bureau.

The resolution was requested by Beth Fischer, executive director of the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday, an executive board member, on behalf of the CVB Board.

They said letting cities spend the lodging tax on municipal purposes would reduce the amount of money available for tourism promotion.

The committee also:

- Recommended the council renew the annual agreement with David Turch and Associates of Washington, D.C., to provide congressional lobbying services. The city and the Willmar Municipal Utilities will each contribute $27,000 toward the $54,000 total cost.

- Approved a request from Fire Chief Marv Calvin to apply for $3,747 in state reimbursement for firefighter training, and authorized Calvin to apply for a $133,038 federal grant to upgrade the fire department's air packs.

- Authorized city staff to join Kandiyohi County in applying for a $48,394 federal grant to install video cameras downtown and at county locations to enhance public safety and security. The city would receive $34,567 and the county would receive $13,827. Willmar's cameras would be located downtown.

- Authorized wastewater project contractor S.R. Weidema to use the guided boring method of tunneling rather than microtunneling to install a portion of the interceptor sewer line. The revised method will reduce the contract price by $50,000 to $6,266,724, said Rhonda Rae, program manager for wastewater project consultant Donohue and Associates.