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Willmar City Council approves delaying First Street/Business 71 improvement project

The city of Willmar will be applying for federal funds for a Business 71 project in order to preserve state aid funds.

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A car drives past potholes on a city street in Willmar.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo
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WILLMAR — Repairs to First Street/Business 71 in northeast Willmar have been delayed in order to preserve state aid funds to repair Gorton Avenue in 2023.

The Willmar City Council on Monday, May 16, approved delaying the First Street/Business 71 street improvement project, which had been planned between 13th Avenue and 26th Avenue Northeast. The project was going to use state aid funds, but it was recently learned by the city engineer that it is eligible for federal funds due to being part of the national highway system.

The new plan is to apply for federal funds to complete the improvements on First Street and Business 71, and use the state aid funds instead for Gorton Avenue, which is in “dire” need of repair, according to city engineer Jared Voge of Bolton & Menk.

“Our recommendation would be to push this off because this street can wait another two years down the road, but we will continue to seek federal funding for them and then bring it back,” said City Administrator Leslie Valiant. “The engineering would already be complete, it would just be a matter of bringing it back for council to approve the project going forward. But concentrate on Gorton Avenue and get that one done with state aid.”

Although Gorton Avenue is on the street improvement project schedule in 2023, proceeding with using state aid funds for the First Street project would have required borrowing against state aid funds in future years, Voge explained. This means that the city would either have had to delay the Gorton Avenue improvement project until state aid funds again became available, or bond and acquire debt for the project.

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After agreeing to delay the First Street/Business 71 project, the council approved bid awards and budgets for the remaining street improvement projects on the 2022 schedule. Those improvements include overlay of 19th Avenue/Lakeland Drive Southeast from First Street to Willmar Avenue and overlay of several parking lots.

The low bid for the 19th Avenue/Lakeland Drive project was approximately $1.3 million from Minnesota Paving and Materials. The low bid for the parking lot projects was a little more than $528,000 from Duininck.

The council also approved scheduling the public hearing for Aug. 15 during the regular City Council meeting for the 2022 street improvement assessments. City staff is currently preparing the assessable footage and the amount of the assessment for each affected lot. Affected property owners will be notified of the hearing and the amount of their assessments prior to the hearing.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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