June 25, 2007

LP's Safe Routes to School Program Receives Funding

By Jenni Sebora

Of the total of 111 applications received by the state of Minnesota, Lester Prairie is one of only 23 cities that will receive the needed funds in Minnesota.

What are these funds for?

Safe Routes to School Program.

And Lester Prairie’s focus for the program is to provide a safe route for residents, including children, of the new developments on the east side to get to school and the city parks.

The Safe Routes to School Program is a Federal-Aid program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and is to be administered by State Departments of Transportation (DOT). It is intended to fund projects that improve biking and walking conditions for school-aged children, the website http:// safety.fhwa.dot.gov noted.

“These projects are intended to make walking and biking to school easier for children and more acceptable to their parents,” Lt. Gov. and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau said, which was noted on www.dot.state.mn.us.

“The projects will make safety improvements in routes to school and students will get more exercise which can make them healthier,” she said.

The funds are available for a variety of projects including infrastructure improvements, education, and enforcement that improve the safety.

The funding split is 70 percent for infrastructure, ten percent for education and enforcement, and 20 percent that may be used in either category.

An estimated $8 million has been authorized for Minnesota’s Safe Routes to School program.

Grant approval for the program is “a very competitive process,” Mn/DOT’s Safe Routes to School program coordinator Kristie Billiar said. With an approximate $11.5 million total in application requests, Lester Prairie was one of the 23 cities that received grant approval.

Lester Prairie was notified in April that it will be awarded the $175,000 maximum possible for its infrastructure trail project.

As was noted above, the major issue that led the city to apply for the grant was the need to have a safe route for residents of the new developments on the east side of town to get to school and the city parks, Jake Saulsberry of Bolton & Menk said, and city clerk Marilyn Pawelk agreed.

The focused area in phase one of this project is a route that will run from McLeod County Road 9, along the north side of McLeod County Road 23 to Pine Street and south on Pine Street to the city park as well as to Central Ave., and a route that will run from the park to Sunrise Nature Park.

A phase two is also being examined which would include a trail route from the city park (compost side) to County Road 9 to Prairie Ridge housing development. This project would be part of a possible future grant application proposal.

Pawelk noted that the extent of work completed depends on the bids that come in.

The hope is to get the project started this construction season and have it completed before “the snow flies,” Pawelk said. The city is currently waiting for the packet from the state so it can proceed with the trail project and finalize the plans in conjunction with the county.

Because of the population and size of the city, it is a requirement that Lester Prairie work in conjunction with the county on this project, Pawelk explained and Billiar agreed.

Communities under a population of 5,000 must have a sponsor, such as the county, for the program.

Pawelk noted that the county will oversee the project but the city will be in charge of it.

“They (the county) want it to be right with us (the city),” Pawelk added. The project funds will actually funnel through the McLeod County Highway Dept to the city.

Billiar explained that the school (affected by the grant) must also be in concurrence with the city on the grant.

“It (the Safe Routes to School program) is most successful as a partnership,” Billiar said.

The MN/DOT website noted that a common trait among successful Safe Route Programs around the country has been involving a wide range of partners.

Lester Prairie’s proposed Safe Route Program certainly possesses this trait.

Before the city even applied for the grant, it asked for input from community members regarding the idea of the trail project. Pawelk noted that the city received about 25 letters of support for it.

The city was also in communication with the medical clinic on County Road 9 and had initial meetings with the city police chief Bob Carlson, superintendent of schools Joe Miller and the city’s engineers, Bolton & Menk.

Billiar said Lester Prairie is being awarded the grant because it “meets the goals of the project.”

Billiar also had other good things to say about the city’s application for the grant. She noted that Lester Prairie’s grant application was very complete. It included sidewalk improvements - making critical links in the city, and the proposed project had good potential for future projects.

City of Lester Prairie

Mayor: Eric Angvall

Acting Mayor: Andrew Heimerl

Council members: Larry Hoof,

Ron Foust, and Arthur Mallak

The council meets the first Monday

after the first Tuesday every month

at 7 p.m. at the city hall.

City Staff

Clerk: Marilyn Pawelk

Asst. City Clerk: Darla Simon

Police Chief: Robert Carlson

Patrol Officers: Mark Thiry

and Brenda Conzet

Maintenance: Greg Mueller and

Adam Birkholz

Estimated population 2003: 1,431

Lester Prairie was named for John

Lester, landowner

Fifty-two percent of residents report

German ancestry, and five percent

report Irish.

Per capita income (2000 census):

$18,223 compared with $21,587


Twelve percent of residents age 25

and older have a bachelor’s or

advanced college degree.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau,


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