The Park Rapids City Council heard concerns from residents in the Fair Avenue neighborhood about the street and utility improvements proposed for that neighborhood.
Leading off a well-attended hearing at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 12, City Engineer Jon Olson with Apex Engineering Group recapped the project, which includes the following:
A full reconstruction of water, sewer, storm sewer and roadway on Fair Ave. from State Hwy. 34 to 8th Street and of 5th St. from Fair Ave. through Lindquist Park, widening Fair to an urban section with curb and gutter and a sidewalk down the east side.
Overlay and shoulder widening on Fair from 8th St. to Industrial Park Road.
As a bid alternate, full reconstruction of 5th from Lindquist Park to Pleasant Ave., the adjacent block of Front Ave. and Court Ave. and an alley off Front Ave.
He stressed that the city council has yet to make a final decision on whether to move forward with the $3.8 million project. But he said he recommends it, since the project was awarded a $1.25 million Local Road Improvement Program grant through the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Olson estimated that the project’s assessment rates for adjoining property owners at $69 per front foot for street reconstruction, $19 for street overlay, $13 for stormwater, $51 for sewer mains, $52 for water mains and $16 for sidewalk.
He quoted sewer services to the property line assessed at $2,100 each, and $2,200 each for residential water services.
Olson said there will be an assessment hearing to finalize assessment amounts, which can be financed on property owners’ tax bills over the same term as the city’s bond – typically 15 to 20 years – at an interest rate typically 1-2% above the bond rate.
Olson said corner lots will be assessed on the short side of the lot for water and sewer improvements, and on the short side plus half of the long side up to 150 feet for surface improvements.
Several residents who attended the hearing raised questions and concerns.
Jerry Cole complained about the truck traffic on Fair Avenue, funneling through Industrial Park Road between State Hwy. 34 West and U.S. Hwy. 71 South. He suggested posting signs directing trucks to use the bypass route – referring to 129th Ave. and 160th St., together designated as CSAH 28.
Bill Simpson asked about street lighting, which Olson said hasn’t been discussed. Simpson also asked whether power lines will have to be moved for the project. Olson said the design will likely reveal some conflicts with existing utilities.
Lucy Criswell, who lives on 5th Street near Lindquist Park, asked whether the alley’s improvements will include a stop to prevent people from driving straight into the park. Olson agreed something should be done about that.
He also explained that unfinished construction entering Lindquist Park from 6th Street is the stub of a storm sewer extension that has yet to be completed.
Charlotte Foster, whose mother lives on Fair Ave., questioned the need to widen the street. She said it already carries a lot of commercial traffic and complained about the way people drive.
“I can’t see widening something to give these people more opportunity to race their cars and trucks,” she said. “They really ought to be taken off that street, if you’re going to improve it.”
Foster also questioned the need for sidewalks, given the minimal foot traffic on Fair Ave. However, she said the sewers are a problem, with lines freezing and backing up, costing her mother hundreds of dollars per year.
Foster asked where visitors will park during events at the fairground. Olson said the plan is to widen the street, adding curb and gutter and fog lines for parallel parking.
Asked how much property landowners will lose, Olson said most of the project area already has rights of way in place. For lots that do not, he said, owners will be approached to discuss easements and compensation.
Foster asked if the city might do the utility improvements only, without the street work. Olson defended the need for street improvements, citing the deterioration of the roadway and its inadequacy for the traffic already using it.
“So what happens if you do these street improvements, and in two years the street has gone to heck?” Foster asked. Olson replied that the city is responsible for maintenance, but the project will be warrantied for one year after work is complete.
Mary Stumbo complained about Fair Ave. being used as a drag strip, and guaranteed there will be burn marks and loud noise on the improved street.
Doty Egge added that this goes on despite the police department’s location nearby.
Stumbo also voiced concern about what will happen to residents’ mailboxes. Olson said mailboxes in the project area will be relocated, and said later in the design process, officials will talk with residents about how the project will affect their property.
As the hearing closed, city council member Erika Randall stressed that project personnel will be in constant communication with residents during the project.
During the Hwy. 71 roundabout project, she said, adjacent business owners were concerned at first but by the end, they were satisfied with the communication provided by Olson and his crew, “making sure that there were zero surprises.”
Randall urged residents to accept Olson’s offer to discuss their concerns directly and keep them informed.