Weather Forecast


Akeley water main funding could go down to the wire

The Akeley Council has learned notification on grant funding for replacement of the city's water main, in conjunction with the Highway 34 improvements next summer, will be down to the wire.

The city applied for a $257,000 grant through Small Cities Development Program to fund infrastructure improvements on a three-block portion of Highway 34. A $125,000 to $130,00 loan would be needed to fund the estimated $376,000 project.

But at this week's meeting, Dick Grabko of Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. reported the SCDP public facility grant awards won't be announced until May or June. The architect and engineering firm was originally anticipating to learn by December.

Jeff Ledin, an engineer with SEH, said he believes the Department of Transportation will work with the city to accommodate the schedule, encouraging communication between the council and MnDOT, and between MnDOT and DEED, SCDP a subsidiary.

The Highway 34 improvement project will extend from the eastern perimeter of Park Rapids to east of Akeley next summer.

Darren Laesch, MnDOT project manager, contacted after the meeting, said minor improvements to the highway could be made initially to accommodate the delay.

He said the project, which is expected to begin in June, will continue as planned. As a compromise, MnDOT would come back to complete the work in Akeley once the infrastructure is complete, he said.

Wednesday, Akeley council member Brian Hitchcock noted without funding, "the city will be hard-pressed to proceed."

Grabko suggested looking into interim financing.

Ledin urged the city to develop a strategy, suggesting a committee meet to "crunch numbers."

A timeline from SEH presented at the meeting calls for the council to authorize SEH to proceed with project construction processes in June, assuming project financing goals are met.

Construction activities are projected to proceed in July.

The Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund (DWRLF) draft Intended Use Plan (IUP) would be published in August for a one-month comment period.

The final DWRLF IUP would be published in September or October with the loan application to be subsequently submitted.

When the loan is secured, at an estimated 1 to 3 percent interest over 20 to 30 years, the project could begin and conclude in November.

Grabko said Thursday he assumes the city won't proceed if it does not receive the grant.

MnDOT will pave the standard 24-foot width of the highway. The highway's width in the city ranges from 50 to 70 feet. The grant/loan amount includes dollars for repairing the parts of the highway that would be torn up by the water project.

In other action, the council:

n Reported liquor store earnings of $5,343 in December, with a profit of $23,745 for the year.

n Named department commissioners.

Troy Hegg will serve as acting mayor and public streets commissioner.

Hitchcock is public works and safety and parks and recreation commissioner.

Mayor Jennifer Mitchell will head personnel, finance and administration as well as economic development.

Newly-elected Heather Moore will act as public events commissioner.

Roger Geimer arrived to ask for city representation at Eastern Hubbard County Fire District meetings.

Hegg, who currently serves as the rep for the council, said his schedule precludes attending regularly and resigned.

Hitchcock agreed to the appointment, Moore as an alternate.

n Geimer reported the county's five fire departments have received a $100,000 grant to purchase portable radios. EHCFD's matching amount for 17 radios is $5,736.

n City maintenance supervisor Frank Thelin urged patience from residents following a snow storm.

MnDOT advised him trucks will first plow a path for driving with sidewalks secondary.

Cars on highways or streets precluding plowing will be towed, per city ordinance. The ordinance prohibiting the blowing of snow onto streets will be enforced.

Water bills will remind residents of the winter etiquette.

n Reported the city office is now open from 8 a.m. to noon Fridays.

n Received a letter from Cliff Johnson who officially declined his election to the council.

The council declared a vacancy, seeking letters of intent with a deadline of Wednesday, Feb. 2. A work session to review them will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3.

n Approved a 51-cent mileage rate.