By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN In preparation for the 2016 street and utility improvement project, the Delano City Council during Tuesday’s meeting welcomed feedback from property owners who would be impacted by the project.
The project is estimated at about $6.32 million. That total includes nearly $4.6 million for streets, compared to the street budget of $3 million in the city’s capital improvement plan.
Before plans and specs are ordered Tuesday, Jan. 5, the council is considering narrowing the scope of the project.
Currently, the streets included in the project are First Street, Second Street, 72nd Street, Bridge Avenue, Buffalo Street, Elk Street, Franklin Avenue, Merriman Court, Merriman Drive, and Railroad Avenue.
City Administrator Phil Kern explained that the project would impact about 80 properties, with the city needing to purchase right-of-way from 12 of those properties.
“A number of you have talked to an appraiser on behalf of the city,” Kern said. “If not, you are off the hook. If so, we’ll be following up with you.”
Property owners took advantage of a public hearing to ask about the project overall and how it might affect their properties, including whether or not they would be assessed for the work.
“Current practice is not to assess unless there is a significant change in service,” Kern said. “The projects are paid for by general property tax.”
Amy Johnson, who lives on Railroad Avenue, asked if the city could move the proposed paved road onto more railroad property.
“We will discuss how much railroad property we can acquire from a financial standpoint,” Kern said.
In response to a question about why the city is planning to extend the paved portion of Railroad Avenue from Fourth Street to Tiger Drive, Assistant City Engineer Shawn Lowagie said it is in the city’s comprehensive plan to do so to serve as another access to downtown and take pressure off other streets, while also potentially encouraging development.
Dave Rieder, who lives on Bridge Avenue East, encouraged the city to postpone work on the road.
“It’s the worst street, but the least used,” Rieder said. “Look at our street last. If you have to put streets on hold, I don’t mind. A street that gets thousands of cars should be looked at first.”
Jenna Hill expressed concerns that widening Franklin Avenue from 18 to 20 or 24 feet and adding a turnaround would invite more traffic.
“We need a minimum 20-foot-wide road for emergency access,” Kern said.
He noted that a turnaround would be beneficial for garbage trucks, delivery trucks, and school buses.
In addition to street work, Lowagie noted that many water and sewer upgrades are included in the project.
Later, in a closed session, the council directed Kern to meet with property owners and make offers for right-of-way on four properties on Franklin Avenue and eight properties on Railroad Avenue.
In other business related to street and utility improvement projects, the council approved a resolution requiring inspection of private sewer and water lines before such projects.
“The city would hire one inspector to negotiate a rate the city would pick up to have those inspected,” Kern said.
If a repair is needed, at an average price of $3,000 to $6,000, the property owner could pay for it up front, be assessed for the repair over time, or have proceeds from the eventual sale of the property pay for the repair. In the last scenario, the city would be paid before the mortgage in order for the property to have a clean title.
Kern noted that having private sewer and water lines inspected would decrease the amount of groundwater that infiltrates the system, reducing the amount of water that is treated and increasing the life of the wastewater treatment plant.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• declined an offer from Gina Coburn to lease or buy the Heritage Center for a coffee shop and restaurant.
“At this time, they declined and want to look at an internal reuse of the building for city purposes,” Kern said.
He noted that if the building was leased, the city would be required to pay taxes on it, which would take up much of the lease proceeds. The city may consider leasing the building in the future, but wanted to explore other options first, according to Kern.
• approved a five-year contract extension with Veolia for operating the wastewater treatment facility. The fees will remain $489,180 for 2016 and will not increase more than 2.5 percent per year in the following four years.
• approved maintaining the same storm water drainage rates and sanitary sewer user rates for 2016.
• approved a planned unit development and final plat to allow single-family homes on property located along St. Peter Avenue, along with tabling a development agreement for Wright Neighborhoods 3rd Addition.
• approved rezoning of property on 72nd Street Southeast from R-A rural agriculture to R-2 single family residential.
• approved an exhaust fan for the hose tower at the Delano fire station to help hoses dry better.