The Park Rapids City Council approved two agreements on Tuesday involving street, sidewalk, water and sewer improvements connected with the state's U.S. Hwy. 71 project, planned for 2019 at the south end of the city.

Jon Olson with Apex Engineering gave the council an update about the cooperative project with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

The state plans to reconfigure the intersection of Hwy. 71 (Park Ave. S.), County 53 (Industrial Park Rd.) and County 15 (Crocus Hill St.) as a roundabout, and to upgrade Hwy. 71 south of 8th St. as an urban section.

Also on MnDOT's dime will be mainline storm sewer improvements, landscaping, sidewalk and 50 percent of the installation of street lights at the roundabout and up the highway to 8th St.

Planned as part of the same project are water and sanitary sewer improvements, street improvements and storm sewers on 11th St. and the highway frontage roads, and the other 50 percent of the lighting installation, for which the city will be responsible along with all future maintenance and operation of the street lights.

Olson said the current estimated cost of the city's share of the project is approximately $1.62 million, while the city's Capital Improvement Plan estimated $1.65 million. MnDOT is administering the entire project.

"The design is now complete," said Olson, adding that MnDOT will unseal bids for the project on Dec. 18.

Detour concerns

Construction is scheduled for mid-May through October 2019, Olson said, with phases planned to keep traffic routed along the Hwy. 71 corridor or detouring onto Pleasant Ave. during as much of the project as possible.

During the last phase, however, "when the roundabout is constructed, a full closure of Hwy. 71 will be required. We are hoping to get through the main tourism season before that is in place, but we're thinking probably mid- to late August when that full closure will be in place," said Olson.

Later, he clarified that the closure will continue until the roundabout is completed in mid- to late October.

"I was really pushing for after Labor Day," said Olson. "I really wanted to see us get through the main tourism season. They did the math on it, and looking at the end of October (to complete construction) didn't give us enough time, if you worked backwards, to the Labor Day holiday."

During that closure, highway traffic will be diverted onto the new County 28 truck bypass, which follows 160th St. and 129th Ave. according to a Todd Township GIS map. Olson said signage along the detour will direct people back into Park Rapids' downtown business area.

Due to the cooperative nature of the project, Olson said, the state required the city to approve two agreements "to identify the roles and responsibilities of both parties." The first is a cooperative partnership contract to have MnDOT design the frontage roads.

"The frontage roads and the highway are one feature, and they do need to be designed together," Olson explained.

The second agreement, a cooperative construction agreement, identifies the cost, administrative and engineering sharing for the project, as well as the division of responsibilities for long-term maintenance and operation of the improvements.

Olson said both agreements are consistent with standard policies for municipal-state cooperative projects, except that it is unusual for the state to pick up 100 percent of the sidewalk and mainline storm sewer costs.

Approval of the partnership contract was moved by council member Erika Randall, and the construction agreement by council member Tom Conway. Both agreements passed without dissent.

Ferrellgas CUP and more

The city council approved the conditional use permit request by Ferrellgas to build and operate a retail propane sales and distribution location at 1003 Park Ave. S., with the conditions recommended by the city's planning commission on Nov. 26.

Mayor Pat Mikesh appointed council member Liz Stone as the city's representative on the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, a position that became vacant when Randall resigned from the commission.

According to a report in the council's agenda packet, the city issued six building permits during November for valuation totaling $81,900, bringing the year-to-date total to 158 permits and $10.5 million valuation.

Council members thanked Mikesh for his service during three terms as mayor and his years on the city council before that. Cake was served following the meeting, honoring Mikesh as he leaves office at the end of the year and welcoming new city planner Andrew Mack.