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Poor drainage will be the focus of improvements to the southwest area of the city

Drainage issues and aging infrastructure are prompting major street improvements in southwest Park Rapids this summer.

A public hearing was held Tuesday night to provide information to residents who will be affected by the project.

The area is from Sixth Street west from 300 feet west of Stevens Avenue to Pleasant Avenue, Seventh Street west from Fair Avenue to Front Avenue, Eighth Street West from Fair Avenue to Pleasant Avenue, Stevens Avenue from Eighth Street west to Sixth Street west and two alleys.

City engineer Jon Olson said this project has been in the works for several years and is part of the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

"The aging infrastructure, both the surface infrastructure ... and also the underground infrastructure in a portion of the area is also at a point where replacement is required," he said. "Another big issue in this area is drainage. There are several areas that do experience temporary flooding during the spring and heavy rainfalls."

The streets were surfaced with bituminous in the late 1970s and are beginning to show some wear and tear. Some of the sewer pipes are old and have had several failures in the last few years, Olson said.

The area has no storm sewer facilities. The proposed project will allow for connecting to a storm sewer main that was completed during the Pleasant Avenue project in 2008.

Old sanitary sewer and water mains will be replaced with PVC mains. Many of the existing mains are beyond their useful expected lifespan, according to an engineering report.

The proposed street improvements would have curb and gutter and a sidewalk is proposed on the north side of Eighth Street. The sidewalk is part of the city's overall trail plan.

Olson said the curb and gutter adds an additional cost but it makes sense to have it because of the availability of storm sewer drainage from the Pleasant Avenue project.

The city is looking into having rain gardens installed in select locations within the project area to help with drainage.

"Basically, they're landscaped depressions that you'd find along the boulevard of the street," Olson said. "Their intended use is to primarily treat storm water. It slows the runoff rate and allows the runoff to infiltrate rather than going directly into the storm sewer and rivers or lakes."

Other communities that have used rain gardens have had the adjacent property owners take care of the landscaping, he said. Rain gardens are an aesthetic feature.

"It's very difficult to estimate what the feature would cost ... but typically we see about a $2,000 price tag," Olson said.

The estimated construction costs total $1,544,500. The city share is $466,500 with $1,078,000 assessable to property owners.

Olson said he would be shocked if the bids came in higher than the estimates.

For an average 100-foot lot, the estimated assessment is $15,800, Olson said. A 75-foot lot would be approximately $12,100 and a corner lot would be approximately $21,000.

These figures are just estimates and each property would be different. Assessments are typically financed with payments added to property taxes over 10 or 15 years. The interest rate would likely be 6 or 7 percent, Olson said.

Wally Waldorf, who lives in the proposed project area, wondered if streets would be torn up at the same time as the alley because he would like to use one if not the other.

Olson told him the intent will be to minimize the hassles and leave either the alley or street open.

Kurt Hansen, administrator at Heritage Living Center, asked if the nursing home could dove tail on the project by having the parking lot paved at the same time. Olson said that would be a possibility.

Some citizens who attended the meeting said they would like the construction to start as early as possible so the project is done earlier. Olson said that was also a possibility. The project could take around four months to complete. He said there would be periodic meetings with the contractor during construction and the public would be invited to attend.

Fr. Thomas Friedl said he was concerned with the financing and wondered if there was any possibility for federal funds. Administrator Bill Smith said he didn't know of any opportunities and added that it's hard to find funding for regular street projects in cities.

The council approved having the project design prepared over the next couple months. Bidding would likely be in April and construction could begin in May or June. The council will continue to look at rain gardens and decide later if they will be included in the project.

Property owners can call city hall with questions at 732-3163.

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