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Street flooding tops discussion of 2013 street projects in Willmar, Minn.

This June 2010 file photo shows street flooding in the area of 10th Street and Kandiyohi Avenue Southwest in Willmar. While that area has been particularly prone to flooding, concerns about intersection flooding along a different section of Kandiyohi Avenue were raised by a citizen Tuesday when the Willmar City Council ordered plans and specifications for $5.29 million in street work. (Tribune file photo by Kelly Boldan)

WILLMAR — Flooding issues topped discussion of the proposed list of 2013 street and other improvements at Tuesday night’s Willmar City Council meeting.

Elizabeth Knutson voiced no objection to reconstructing a portion of Kandiyohi Avenue next to her home at the corner of Second Street and Kandiyohi Avenue Southwest. But she raised concerns about intersection flooding occurring during heavy rain and subsequent water backup onto her property and seepage into her basement.

Knutson asked if new sewer lines being planned as part of the summer roadwork will take care of the flooding problem.

Jared Voge, interim city engineer with Bolton and Menk of Willmar, presented the list of proposed reconstruction, new construction, overlay and miscellaneous projects totaling $5.29 million.

Voge said the existing drainage areas will be evaluated and he said everything possible will be done to alleviate as much of that storm water concern as possible.

But he said the larger issue overall is the existing system downstream, and Voge said he would not promise that new storm sewer pipes will eliminate all of Knutson’s concerns related to storm water in that area.

Bruce Peterson, planning and development director, reminded the council and public that efforts are continuing to make overall improvements to the storm water system. As Voge pointed out, said Peterson, the big issue is downstream drainage in County Ditch 23A, which exits southeast Willmar.

Peterson said the city has only very little control over portions of the ditch system because the bulk of the system is outside the city limits “and we do not control outlet elevations. So to the best of the city’s ability, we’re always working to make improvements inside the city, to accommodate existing and additional flows so that we can control the impact of storm water on residential properties.”

Without spending millions and millions of dollars, Peterson said, the city will continue to have short-term residential water issues. He said there are a limited number of ways in which those issues can be addressed without spending millions in the city and farther downstream.

“But we continue to do what we can within the city to make the improvements for our citizens,” he said. “As part of the overall plan for the storm sewer system, if these project areas would help alleviate some of the existing storm water concerns, then those pipes will be upsized.”

Council member Steve Ahmann said he knows solving the storm water issue will be very expensive.

“But the water that comes down our direction, and we get it from Kandiyohi and whole surrounding area, comes through and out Ditch 23A,” he said.

Ahmann asked Voge about the possibility of installing underground tanks to temporarily hold and release storm water.

Voge said soil types play a major role in that type of process. He said the process is more effective in sandy soil, which allows water to dissipate into the ground. But he said water will be detained and won’t infiltrate in clay soils.

He said plans have not been finalized and do not include Ahmann’s suggestion. He said the larger overall issue is downstream drainage.

“That’s why we review all the applications that come before the city to make sure we’re not increasing the rate and volume at which water is discharged into the city system,” Voge said. “These improvements don’t increase the rate of volume. But as part of the plan preparation process, we can investigate other alternatives to perhaps reduce that burden on the existing system.”

Ronald Rein, 209 Havana St. N.E., had no objection to reconstructing his street, but said the residents want the center median retained. He said the median is a unique feature of the street and has been there for many years.

City records indicate the street was constructed in 1948.

Voge said the curb around the median will be replaced as a result of utility work and street reconstruction, but the median will remain.

“That island was identified as an important component to Havana Street by the residents. That will remain in place. There are lights and trees. The plan is to keep it in there,” Voge said.

After taking comments from the public and after discussion, the council voted to order the improvement and preparation of plans and specifications.

The proposed improvements include 1.27 miles of reconstruction; 3.2 miles of overlay; 0.22 mile of new construction; and miscellaneous work such as the downtown-to-Robbins Island trail connection and the Trott Avenue Southwest railroad quiet zone.

Council member Jim Dokken said overlays are important to extending the life of streets and avenues. He asked how much extra overlay will be done this year as a result of Mayor Frank Yanish budgeting an additional $240,000 for street work.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said about one mile of overlay was added to what has historically been done.

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