Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 31, 2000

Waverly gearing up for Hwy 12 reconstruction

By Andrea Vargo

A few people showed up in Waverly at the Highway 12 project open meeting to ask questions of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) representatives last Monday.

Waverly City Council members, a few business owners, and two people who are dealing with Mn/DOT on easement issues made up the balance of the interested parties present.

One of the easement issues deals with rental units owned by Edith Ouverson of Waverly.

She owns and rents six units between Highway 12 and the railroad tracks, on the west end of Waverly.

Ouverson asked Curt Eastland, project manager from Mn/DOT, if the state could wait a year for those properties to be vacated.

Eastland explained the project will be awarded in April 2000, even though actual work will not start until 2001.

But since the state has to have the title to all the land it needs by the time the project is awarded, this poses some problems for Ouverson's renters, he said.

"It's an ethical issue," said Eastland.

Those renters must be relocated by the state into equal or better housing for the amount of money they are currently paying in rent, explained Eastland.

They can't just be evicted to fend for themselves because Mn/DOT wants their homes to build a road, he said.

The usual process for renters is for Mn/DOT to assign them each a caseworker who will help them find a place and relocate, Eastland told Ouverson.

The state is responsible for putting them up at a motel or some other accommodation, until the caseworker can help them find a rental unit, said Eastland.

He told Ouverson that she could talk to her lawyer and maybe it could be arranged for the units to be vacated as each lease comes due, but he said Mn/DOT would prefer to assist the renters to find other housing.

Pond area

Waverly will only need one pond for collection of water run-off from the highway, said Eastland.

The water will run from both ends of the construction area to a central collection point that routes the water through two culverts and into a pond on the north side of Wright County Rd. 8 onto property owned by City Councilman Jerry McRaith.

McRaith urged Eastland to explore other options for the pond.

But Eastland said all the studies show that this is the best place for the pond, and it will be best for the water quality of Waverly Lake if the run-off comes from a pond in this particular place.

The pond is designed to hold two feet of water on a regular basis, and it will be able to take storm water easily.

Grit settles out of the water in the pond, and the water is slowly released to be filtered through grasses until it reaches the lake, he explained.

This provides optimum cleaning for the water and the best scenario for the lake, he said.

The pond will be about an acre in size, and if it were placed in a wetland area that already exists on McRaith's property, there are some environmental issues that would need to be addressed, said Eastland.

When Mn/DOT changes or destroys a wetland, it is required by Wright County to replace that wetland with twice the amount of new wetland on the same property.

So, while McRaith said he would like to see the pond placed in a different location, it would cost him another two acres of land, if that happened, Eastland explained.

Access during construction

Access for residents, businesses, and emergency vehicles is a serious issue throughout the construction period.

It will be especially hard on businesses in a city as small as Waverly, and any business that wants to come in or expand will have to wait until 2002 to avoid the construction.

Mn/DOT will have one gravel lane open for local traffic most of the time, said Eastland.

While the people on the north side of Highway 12 can get out through Co. Rds. 8 and 9, the streets on the south side all dead-end into a field, noted City Councilman Dave Fournier.

Because Waverly will not be replacing sanitary sewer during construction of the roadway, the contractor will not have to dig as deep and wide as he might have otherwise.

Therefore, said Eastland, the roadway can be worked on under local traffic.

Residents need to understand there may be some inconvenience as work goes across each street entrance. Sometimes there will be a big hole for a period of hours, but by the time the contractor leaves for the night, the area is intended to be useable, he said.

Other issues

· If clear title to an easement or piece of property cannot be obtained by negotiation before the date the highway project is awarded, Eastland said that property must go through condemnation proceedings.

Negotiations continue up to and through the time the state takes title to the land, he said.

The property owner has a whole series of steps to take if he or she feels the state didn't act fairly in its offer for the property, he said.

The state will end up with what it needs, but the price for the landowner might not be settled for a time, said Eastland.

Condemnation proceedings are also one of the legal steps the state is required to take when a title is "clouded" as opposed to clear, he said.

· The park-and-ride lot is still in the design stages, but several council members asked questions about the feasibility of having the lot finished by the time the highway work starts.

Council members seemed to feel this would give extra parking room to homeowners who might temporarily need a space for a night or two.

· A landscape partnership is available through Mn/DOT that provides architectural services and purchases plantings for city beautification along the construction area after the project is finished, explained Eastland.

The city would have to provide the labor and maintenance. That means a garden club or other organization could take over the work, he said.

If there is no one available to work with flowers, Eastland told the council members that relatively low-maintenance plantings could be designed.

The city needs to apply for that money, said Eastland.

· Maintenance Supervisor John Rassat asked Eastland about the possibility of placing all the utilities underground through the city.

That could be done, but it is expensive to do and maintain, said Eastland.

Northern States Power (NSP) doesn't like to do it, but if the city passes an ordinance requiring all wires to be underground, it won't have a choice, Eastland said.

That may sound like a good thing, but residents will absorb the cost in their NSP bills, he said.

NSP can start moving poles for the whole project from Howard Lake to Waverly as soon as the project is awarded, he noted.

· Sidewalk will only be placed on the south side of Highway 12. It is not feasible to put it on the north side. There is not enough space through town, said Eastland.

· Eastland said the life of the new highway will be about 35 years, but it will need overlay in 8 or 10 years, he said.

· Waverly Fireman Dave Fournier asked Eastland if it might be possible to use the quonset hut on Highway 12 as some type of training exercise for the fire department.

Eastland told Fournier to contact others at Mn/DOT who might help him with that project.

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