Residents question the past street construction standards at council's improvement hearing

WILLMAR -- Residents of southwest Willmar questioned the City Council Monday night about past construction standards that have lead to the present poor condition of streets proposed for reconstruction.

WILLMAR -- Residents of southwest Willmar questioned the City Council Monday night about past construction standards that have lead to the present poor condition of streets proposed for reconstruction.

Also, residents urged the council during a public hearing on the proposed 2006 street improvement program to keep heavy construction equipment and trucks off city streets.

Following the hour-long hearing, the council voted to order city staff to prepare plans and specifications for the improvement projects, estimated at $7.4 million.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said the purpose of the hearing was to determine if the council should make the improvements. He said a final financing plan will be put together, which will include state aid money and contributions from the community investment fund. He said developers will pay 100 percent of the cost of streets proposed in new residential and commercial developments, and a hearing will be held in May to consider assessments against properties that will benefit from rebuilt streets.

The city will open construction bids in April and award construction contracts in June.


During the hearing, Mayor Les Heitke asked for public comments as he ticked off the list of proposed projects.

The proposed reconstruction of 10 streets, including six in southwest Willmar, garnered the most comments.

Brent Henriksen of 2409 21st Ave. S.W. said he understood that construction standards have changed since his street was built in 1983. But he was concerned about being asked to pay for something that should have been done half as good as streets in other parts of town that he said have lasted longer.

City Public Works Director Mel Odens said the standard for streets built 20 to 25 years ago called for less base gravel and bituminous surfacing, compared with the standards used during the past nine years of 10 inches of gravel and four inches of bituminous.

Schmit said property owners paid 100 percent of the assessments at that time compared with 75 percent today.

Council member Ron Christianson, who has been developing homes in the southwest part of town for over 20 years, acknowledged the gravel and bituminous were not thick enough, and said the streets are being beat up by heavy construction equipment.

Joe Ridler of 1912 20th Ave. S.W. urged the council to keep heavy construction trucks off the streets. He cited trucks that hauled materials for construction of the Family Eye Center last summer. He recommended the reconstruction of 20th Avenue be delayed for a year or two until new development takes place on vacant land to the east.

He and neighbors Sue Broberg of 1913 20th Ave. S.W., and Carol Foshaug 1900 20th Ave. S.W., in a letter, also asked the council to improve the storm sewer to reduce neighborhood flooding during heavy rain.


Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development, said the city has received no development proposal for the vacant areas.

Randy Lindstrom of 609 25th Ave. S.W. said he wanted access to be provided for disabled and elderly neighbors when his street is rebuilt.

Christianson asked if reconstruction of 20th Avenue would be delayed. Odens said the street was proposed for reconstruction two years ago and he did not know how much development would occur in the area.

In other business, the council approved a 6.35 percent rate increase in sewer rates. The increase is part of the long-range financing plan implemented in 2000 for the new wastewater treatment plant, said Schmit.

He said the city has been gradually increasing the rate, rather than shock residents with a large, one-time rate hike.

Council member Denis Anderson said he had no problem with the rate increase, but asked if a new rate study is being considered now that the preliminary cost estimate for the new treatment plant has doubled, from $40 million five years ago to $80 million now.

Schmit said he is discussing a new rate study with the city's financial consultant. He said a proposal will be presented to the council in the near future.

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