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Committee discusses council support for street rating program

WILLMAR — Willmar City Council member Audrey Nelsen asked the council’s Public Works/Safety Committee last week whether the council supports a program that the engineering department developed to rate the condition and maintenance needs of city streets.

Nelsen asked whether or not the program was a council-adopted policy. The program was developed some years ago to rate street conditions as a basis for determining whether a street needs seal coating, resurfacing (overlay) or reconstruction.

The program was developed by former public works director Mel Odens and assistant city engineer Holly Wilson. Streets were rated every 3 years (now rated every 2 years) on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 the best) for possible placement on the list of annual improvement projects.

“It was a program created by the engineering department to maintain roads based on like programs in other public works departments across the state,’’ according to Willmar City Engineer Sean Christensen.

Nelsen asked if the program was a policy and if the council faced liability for dropping five street overlay projects earlier this month. The council eliminated the overlays after some residents said their streets were in good condition and they requested that the decision-making process be re-evaluated.

During the committee’s meeting last week, Nelsen asked if the city would be liable if dropping the overlays would cause extra cost if the streets needed to be reconstructed. Christensen said he didn’t know what the implications were but could look into it.

Christensen said he assumed the council supported the program but would research the question.

Nelsen said she heard second-hand that people are upset because the council dropped the overlays, that the streets would deteriorate faster and cause them additional expense. Christensen said he’d heard that also.

Nelsen also asked if the council supports the rating system.

“If we’re asking you to do this, then I think we need to make a decision: is this something we support because we didn’t support some of the streets that fit into the same thing we’re looking at right now,’’ Nelsen said. “Maybe we need to clarify that when this comes up so we don’t do this again next year.’’

Committee Chairman Ron Christianson said the city was without an engineer for a while.

“Plans are like 5-year plans. You’ve got to look at them annually,’’ Christianson said.

But Nelsen said the city had a plan and didn’t follow it.

“And that’s why I’m asking for the clarification, that we are supporting it,’’ Nelsen said.

Christensen presented rating data on 129.02 miles of public streets and said he was pleasantly surprised that about 75 miles are rated 76-100 in good condition. He said the remaining 54.05 miles are rated 0-75 and are in an overlay or worse condition.

Christensen said he thought the numbers would be opposite. He said the goal is to try to put a little bit more money into the capital improvement program and get caught up on street improvements.

“The goal to me is all the streets in good condition,’’ he said. “The conditions are scattered. It’s not like we are concentrated on one area of town and ignored other areas of town. But the older parts of town definitely need the most work. We’ve been building on this data base and on this pavement management plan for quite a while now and I feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s what and where’s it going.’’

Pothole patching, mosquito control

In other business, Public Works Superintendent Scott Ledeboer updated the committee on pothole patching and mosquito control activities.

The first day that hot mix patching material was available was May 29. As of Tuesday, crews patched on 18 days and used 291 tons of hot mix (out of 500-600 tons used in a typical season).

They patched 21 cuts from last winter’s water main breaks and sewer repairs, and patched holes in the west, east and north sides of town. Patching remains to be completed on some frost boils and on two water main cuts.

Ledeboer said his department is still working on potholes including Lakeland Drive, Gorton Avenue, Pleasant View and 14th Avenue Southwest.

Ledeboer said his department has a list of areas needing repair. He said patching season goes from June to around the middle to late October. He said availability of hot mix and weather determine when patching is done.

Regarding mosquito control, Ledeboer said the city sprayed four times as of Tuesday, paid 54 hours of overtime to staff, used four 55-gallon drums of pesticide and placed larvacide in storm ponds.

He said the control program is effective but said it won’t eliminate mosquitoes in everyone’s backyard.

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