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Main Avenue work will start on south end

Dozens of downtown business owners and concerned citizens attended the Park Rapids City Council meeting Tuesday to listen to discussion about Main Avenue streetscapes. Sitting at right, Scott Wilson, owner of Park Theater, presents a petition to the council signed by business owners. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Construction on the first four blocks of downtown Main Avenue will start later in the summer, according to a recommendation from the Park Rapids City Council to the city engineer.

The council recommended several streetscape options for the Main Avenue reconstruction project Tuesday night in front of a large crowd of interested business owners and citizens.

Scott Wilson, owner of Park Theater, presented a petition to the council that included 44 downtown businesses. The petition said downtown business owners favored starting construction on the southern part of Main in May and starting construction on the northern part, which has the majority of businesses, around Aug. 1.

"When you look at projections over the last 10 years, the most rainy months are June and July," Wilson said. "And the warmest temperatures are in June, July and August."

He said that if construction started from Highway 34 south right away, it could take longer to complete the project because of the rain.

"As a committee, we need to look at the businesses and everything as a whole," he said.

City engineer Jon Olson said the decision to wait until Aug. 1 to start construction on the first four blocks would allow Main Avenue to be open during the peak season but also cautioned that there is a limited time frame to complete the construction.

If the weather is not ideal in the fall, construction could carry over into 2011, he said.

The council's decision to start construction on the first four blocks later in the summer is contrary to the Downtown Park Rapids Steering Committee's recommendation. The steering committee met the week before and recommended starting construction on the first four blocks right away in the spring.

Councilman David Konshok asked Olson if incentives could be worked into the bid for the contractor if certain deadlines are met.

"We can certainly explore incentive contracting on this project. This might be an appropriate project for that," Olson said. "...certainly a good option to look at. I know the state did that with Highway 34 with great success."

Konshok said he would like the city to look at incentives.

"I think the fact that it's a given that this needs to be done trumps everything else," said Ellis Jones, a downtown business owner. "It's my wish, my hope that the community can take this opportunity to put their best wishes together as a whole to enable Park Rapids to look forward in two, five and 10 years to being revitalized."

Jones said he will refer to the engineers as far as timelines and construction details.

"I would hope that we could get this done with this coming warm summer season and have it 90, 95 percent" done, he said. "... If we keep our eye on the long term goal, improving Park Rapids, and not dwelling on known and unknown worries about construction, we're all going to benefit in the long run."

David Collins, Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission executive director, also addressed the council.

"The last time any major infrastructure work was done downtown was 1930, so it's definitely due," Collins said. "If that's any kind of a guide it's going to be a long time before we get the chance to do it again. So it's important that we do it right."

Councilman Pat Mikesh questioned the bicycle racks.

"Didn't we take bike racks off Main 12 years ago?" he asked.

Police Chief Terry Eilers said there is a bicycle ordinance for the downtown district. No bicycles, skateboards or inline skates are allowed in the downtown district the way the ordinance reads, he said.

"You can tweak the ordinance," Eilers said.

The council decided it should look at revising the ordinance.

Mikesh also had concerns with the decorative pavement because it would need continuous maintenance.

Olson said there is a maintenance schedule for the decorative concrete.

Local developer Alan Zemek wanted the council to look beyond the costs and think about the bigger picture as well.

"The cost is obviously an issue and it will always be an issue and it's something that should be addressed," he said. "But also, I don't know how you put a number on it, but there is some value in the visual cues that you add to the streetscape."

For people who aren't from Park Rapids, the streetscapes are an important part of the project.

"If you put it back just the way it is now, you really haven't told people a story," he said.

The council made additional recommendations to the city engineer. They included:

-Having a natural stone look to the decorative pavement.

-Having concrete instead of bituminous on Main Avenue. Olson suggested concrete because there would be less maintenance in the long run.

The cost would be approximately $200,000 more up front, Olson said. Concrete could be placed later in the season than bituminous, he added.

-Having one bench, trash bin and bike rack per node (12 total) and two trash bins mid-block. This decision follows the recommendation by the steering committee.

-Having customized benches, trash bins and bike racks. The council will keep these items out of the main contract. Olson said it would be easier to bid this way.

-Having traditional lighting and repainting and reusing existing fixtures for part of the project.

The council had previously decided the city would pay for the streetscapes portion of the project. The streetscapes will not be included in the assessments for downtown property owners.

Olson provided a tentative timeline for the reconstruction project for the next few months.

Final plans and specifications will be completed in January and February. Plan approval is tentatively scheduled for the Feb. 9 Park Rapids City Council meeting. Bid opening is listed for March 18 and construction could begin as early as May 1.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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