MnDOT ready to pull the plug?
Main Street rebuild in danger of cancellation
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 4:44 AM
It was standing-room-only last week when the Spring Grove EDA convened their November meeting. President Howard Deters opened the session with a call for Main Street Marketing ideas, but the meeting abruptly switched topics.
"We want to hear them say that they're going to vote 'yes' when it comes time in January. Otherwise, we're going
to untie the project."
Kristen Kammueller, MnDOT
"I had a conference call with about from five people at MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) yesterday," Mayor Saundra Solum reported.
"They were really discouraged. They read the article in the Post-Bulletin (and) they were very concerned about what was happening in Spring Grove."
MnDOT staff said they wanted some assurance that a majority of the incoming mayor/council will support the Main Street project next year.
Failing that, they are ready to "untie" the Spring Grove rebuild from the Highway 44 mill/overlay that will proceed to the west.
Untying could mean the cancellation of the project.
"They (MnDOT) said, 'Our plans are almost to 100 percent,'" Solum explained. "We can do small tweaks to that, but anything major will untie those two projects and that will increase the cost."
Besides losing administrative services from MnDOT, which are supposed to save the city from $100,000 to $150,000, bids would likely go higher if the road projects are separated, Solum noted.
She added that MnDOT is composing a letter to the city explaining exactly what "untying" would mean.
If the project is cancelled, MnDOT will probably be back in the area in approximately 15 years, Solum stated.
Simply asking MnDOT to do a mill/overlay through town is not an option now, she added. "We need new sidewalks, we need the infrastructure and we need that road coming through."
MnDOT's main contribution to the $4.2 million (estimated) project is $1.5 million in cash.
Solum said that in order to receive those funds, the project needs to be bid by April, work to begin by June 7 and the $1.5 million spent by June 30. That's because the spending must fit within the agency's fiscal-year plan.
Jan Solie of Solie Services said she still objects to narrowing the highway through the business district.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required the changes to sidewalks that impacted the street, she was told.
Kristen Kammueller is community relations coordinator for MnDOT's Sixth District. She attended the meeting and was part of the conference call with Solum.
"(With) anything that's state-mandated like the ADA compliance," she said, "it doesn't matter if you want it or not. We have to do it. Whether you guys decide to move forward with the project (or not) when MnDOT comes back to do it, we're doing it that way. You can't go against the federal regulations.
"We can't just do a mill and overlay and ignore the ADA-compliance stuff. (But) we sometimes have special funding where we do ADA stand-alone projects."
"It's when you build something that you have to comply," EDA commissioner and current city Councilmember Robert Vogel added.
Some were openly against proceeding.
"I have gone to every house in this town and knocked on their doors," Mayor-elect Bruce Poole said. "You won't believe how many people begged me (saying) 'If there's anything you can do to stop it, stop it.'
"There were older people, middle-aged people, younger people who said, 'We're living on the edge, and we can't afford it!' Two-thirds of the people in this town don't want it."
"You're going to have to have three (city council) votes for this road project in January," Solum said.
"MnDOT needs to know that there are people who are going to step forward and vote for this or it's not going to go through."
"We have an opportunity to get a million and a half from the state," business owner Mark Dokken said, "Do you know how huge that is?
"I think we would be so foolish to turn that down. We'll never get a chance like this again... a small town of 600 households. I urge the council members to vote for this project."
"It's not a District Six decision," Kammueller said. "There are other towns that want the money just as much as you guys did. One and a half million dollars is the most that was ever given for (a town's) part of this agreements program.
"You had a really good project that would benefit us just as much as it was going to benefit you. If the project goes away and your sewer system breaks or whatever happens with utilities, we don't help with the cost of that."
Solum reminded attendees that the city has already spent $385,000 for engineering. "If this project stops, we cannot recoup that," she pointed out.
"That engineer has tied it up into such knots, that there's no way that you can break it up into pieces," Poole noted. "You either have to do it all or nothing. And I guess I'm for the nothing."
Business owner Allan Otterness of Otterness Auto said he's followed the project and come to the conclusion that it's a good deal for the city.
Otterness said that the addition of crosswalks is a much-needed feature, and with recent cuts to the amenities portion of the plan, it now has his support.
Several more residents then spoke in favor of the project, including teacher Bill Fried, who asked existing and incoming council members to "look at all the information and make the rational decision."
"Do not simply shut yourself off because it might embarrass you to listen to reason," he said.
"I would say we can't afford not to do it," an unidentified resident added from the back of the room.
"What MnDOT wants is basically a good faith (pledge) from the majority of the council," Kammueller said.
"We want to hear them say that they're going to vote 'yes' when it comes time in January. Otherwise, we're going to untie the project."
Commissioner J.C. Nerstad told incoming council member Rachel Olerud that she represents the swing vote on the 2013 council.
She replied that she intends to go door-to-door if necessary to make sure what most residents want before making up her mind on the Main Street project.
Solum said that she would put the matter on the Dec. 4 city council agenda and strongly urge all three incoming members to attend, as well as representatives from MnDOT. That meeting will be held at the Fest Building beginning at 6:30 p.m.