City, county, and township part of grant application
By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Several years back, the City of Delano, along with Franklin Township and Wright County, applied to upgrade the 72nd Street/Davidson Avenue railroad crossing west of Delano.
The Delano City Council recently reviewed the application, with work likely to happen on the intersection in the late summer to fall of 2011 if the funding comes through.
The intersection, which the city has jurisdiction over part of, is challenging in that it serves as the intersection of two roadways and the railway corridor, noted City Administrator Phil Kern.
“Essentially, there are six directions of traffic car and train entering the intersection,” Kern said in a memo to the city council.
The proposed improvement involves the construction of crossing gates and an apron across the railroad surface. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will be involved in the construction, and the grant will cover 90 percent of the improvement costs.
The local governments City of Delano and Franklin Township will be responsible for the other 10 percent, expected to be about $15,000.
City officials have met with a representative of the township board to ensure both are on the same page with the grant application and improvement plans.
The area surrounding the intersection is rural, and may remain that way until market conditions dictate an expansion of urban services, Kern noted. The area is within the city’s comprehensive plan and identified for future growth. The city’s plan also includes reconstruction at the intersection, which presently would not safely accommodate increased traffic.
“Our long-term plans show Davidson in a more north/south direction,” commented City Engineer Vince Vander Top of Wenck Associates.
With the future planned realignment, city staff is concerned that the construction of a formal railroad crossing under the current alignment could be problematic for future efforts, Kern said.
“If the city’s industrial or residential growth demand that the intersection/roadways be reconstructed in the near future, the railroad crossing would also need to be realigned/reconstructed at that time,” Kern said in the memo.
He said the best-case scenario would be expending funds to increase the size of the crossing arms and relocate them to fit the new road alignment. Worst- case scenario would involve a complete reconstruction of the intersection.
“Either way, staff anticipates this to be a very costly process,” Kern said.
As an alternative, the city is proposing to work with Franklin Township on a partial intersection upgrade that would allow the gravel roadways to continue functioning as they are, but at the same time allow for the railroad crossing arms to be placed in an area that’s consistent with the city’s future roadway plan.
Kern noted the township and railroad have both indicated a willingness to consider this proposal and work through any issues the alignment may present.
Mayor Joe McDonald asked if proposed plans for the intersection called for a leveling out of the grade of the intersection.
Kern said at this time it did not, but added that the city can still talk about the level of improvements it wants to have done at the intersection.
The council took no action on the issue and will revisit it again later this year.
Public works hiring draws questions
An item that was on the city’s consent agenda was pulled off for discussion at the request of Delano resident Harlan Lewis.
Public works department head Ernie Eden had a request before the council to advertise for a public works maintenance worker to fill a spot vacated at the end of last year due to retirement.
In the proposal, it said the 2010 compensation plan shows this position with starting wages of $18.55 per hour at step one, and advancing to $23.43 per hour at step nine.
Lewis had concerns if now is the time to spend the money when the city may not know where future revenue is coming from.
“We’ve gotten by a little while (without having the position filled). Couldn’t we get by a little longer?” Lewis asked.
He also asked the council if it were a union position, and how much the total package cost would be to the city.
“We budgeted this into the budget,” McDonald said. “We do have funds available.”
McDonald deferred the other questions to Kern.
Kern said it is not a union position as the city doesn’t have a bargaining unit, and said the total cost for an entry-level public works position with a benefits package would be $52,000 to $54,000.
As for the need, Kern turned it over to Eden.
“I do feel we have a need for it,” Eden said, comparing numbers of public works staff from 10 years ago to where it is today, and noting a 30 percent growth rate in the city.
McDonald said, in the end, people want their roads plowed and the grass mowed.
The council took action to reduce the starting wage for the position to $16.50.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved an ordinance amending the city’s code for dynamic signs or computerized message boards.
In October, the Delano Planning Commission conducted an open house on the topic, and it was brought up at several subsequent meetings of the commission.
The commission felt the city should continue to allow dynamic signs, but establish regulations that allow for “uniform and reasonable use of this technology.”
• entered into closed session to discuss a purchase agreement for 160 Second Street North with real estate agent Jeff Vanderlinde.
• recognized Dave’s Town Club for being named the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 business of the year.