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The Riverside Avenue area of Park Rapids is listed as a high priority for utility improvements in the city. Aging infrastructure has caused backups in the area. (Project map)

Riverside Avenue area next on list of capital projects

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The Park Rapids City Council is feeling pressure to replace aging infrastructure throughout town while taxpayers want lower taxes because of an ailing economy.

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The discussion was brought up again Tuesday as city engineer Jon Olson presented a preliminary engineering report to replace infrastructure in the Riverside area of Park Rapids.

The project would replace infrastructure on Washington Avenue, Riverside Avenue, Forest Avenue, Beach Road, Third Street and Fifth Street west of the Fish Hook River. Some alleys would also be included.

Olson reiterated Tuesday that it was identified as a high priority project because the area has infrastructure dating back to the 1920s.

Within the entire proposed project area, the sanitary sewer is constructed with Vitrified Clay Tile Pipe (VC), Olson said. These mains were installed prior to modern record keeping so the exact installation dates are unknown. However, Olson is estimating the mains are from the 1920s or 1930s.

Olson said approximately half of the city's flow goes through the sewer lines in this area of town.

"The city staff has maintained the pipe but it continues to degrade," he said.

The Public Works Department cleans the mains on a very regular basis, Olson said. The lines have dirt and silt in them and roots have been removed from some areas. Chunks of concrete and clay tile have been removed from some areas as well.

"To date, we've only had two backups," Olson said.

Homeowner Debbie Webster, who lives on Riverside Avenue, wrote a letter to the city council asking for the improvements. She has had two sewer backups that have caused damage and been costly. She said she understood there would be assessments but asked that the project move forward as soon as possible.

"It is certainly in the city's best interest," Olson said.

After more engineering work is done it could be decided to do a full reconstruction of the lines or have a lining put in existing pipes, Olson said. Existing curb and gutter could be preserved in some cases too, he added.

The estimated project cost is $2.2 million, which is less than what Olson has been seeing, he said.

Councilwoman Sue Tomte asked Olson how critical it is to do this project.

"There's just no telling," he said. "It could be OK but it could give us trouble."

If the project moves forward, property owners would be assessed for 100 percent of the sanitary sewer and water main, 100 percent for service laterals, 60 percent for streets and 50 percent for sidewalks.

The city would make up the difference. The breakdown is approximately $1,463,800 assessed and $738,400 for the city.

The council asked if there was any way to postpone the project.

Olson explained that the city's Capital Improvement Plan includes other projects scheduled in the next few years, some of which can't be pushed back. Discovery Circle is being annexed into the city, for example, and homes will need to be connected to city utilities.

The city decided to move forward and set a public hearing Jan. 25 at 12:05 p.m. at the Park Rapids Area Library lower level meeting room. At that time, input will be received from the public and the council can decide whether or not to move ahead with the scheduled project.

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Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561
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