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New downtown project proposal $900,000 less

Park Rapids city leaders gave tentative approval Monday for engineers to draw up a proposal for a scaled down infrastructure replacement plan.

The revamped proposal would shave $900,000 off the original $5.245 million price tag to replace streets, sewer, water and sidewalks on Main Avenue.

"It's fair to say there was some sticker shock" at the initial proposal, consulting engineer Gary Nansen told the city council. His first presentation to the council Aug. 26 was met with some concern from council members about the cost of replacing the city's aging infrastructure.

The revamped proposal would stop paving at Eighth Street instead of going south to Industrial Park Drive.

That stretch of Main Avenue would get sanitary sewer work and some ties to an existing water main. The first phase of the project would be to pave Sixth Street to Eighth Street south of the downtown area, put in a water main, sanitary sewer and service, storm sewers and sidewalks.

Phase 1 would tentatively begin in 2009 and cost about $1 million. That includes the sewer work south of Eighth Street.

Nansen and his staff at Ulteig Engineers in Detroit Lakes will present the city with an updated proposal on how much of the project will be the city's share and how much will be specially assessed.

The second phase would entail similar work on a five-block stretch along downtown's commercial district, tentatively estimated to cost $2.4 million.

Nansen will figure costs, timelines and assessment rates and present those at the council's next meeting Sept. 23.

Phase 2 is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2010. That schedule was much more palatable to merchants, said Ellis Jones, a downtown business owner.

It gives businesses time to provide alternative access to their stores and to work out ways to survive the construction.

Nansen will also present cost share estimates for that portion of the project, with special assessment rates. The last phase of the project, a beautification project that would improve the cityscapes, is estimated to be $900,000. The city council made no commitments to funding or proceeding with that portion of the downtown renovation.

The city's infrastructure in the downtown area dates back to the 1930s and needs replacing, city leaders heard at the Aug. 26 meeting. But the price tag was too steep for several council members and they sent Nansen back to the drawing board.

Saving nearly $1 million was music to their ears at Nansen's second appearance.

"That much money we could use in a lot of other places," said council member Clyde Zirkle.