OPINION: Let's work together for Spring Grove's future
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:51 AM
By Mayor Saundra Solum
On Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 12:10 a.m., I wrote the following status update, "It's a new day, and we need to stay positive and keep our great community alive. It is even more important to become part of our town's future. Let's make sure we keep this town thriving and a place many want to live and visit."
I cannot change who I am, and I cannot give up on my town. I am not upset about the election; I am only sad because there is so much misinformation circulating. I am at a loss on how to make everyone know and understand the right facts.
For example - someone asked why pick streetlights where the bulbs are $500? Not true, the lights we have selected are simple with a downward facing bulb and each replacement bulb is $20-$30.
Do you really want a town that is falling apart? How many people have fallen on our sidewalks?
Of course, it will be a financial burden, but we have many things we are working on to reduce this stress. There are grants, rebates and more, which we continue to find.
We already know we will receive a grant for $25,000 to cover the replacement of trees. MnDOT also has a grant to help with the tree beds.
Anyone who knows me, understands how much I love trees and only cut one down as a last resort. All trees marked with an X will be removed; however, all will be replaced with new mature diversified native species trees.
Most of the trees being cut are ash trees, which may already be infected by the emerald ash borer.
I talked to Karen (Sundet) Folstad, and she said when she was first elected to council, this project was already being discussed. In fact, MnDOT District 6 has a document from a meeting in 2005 between the city and MnDOT.
The first scheduled meeting I attended with MnDOT was in January 2011, when MnDOT committed to give $1.5 million due to the scope of the project.
At this meeting, MnDOT stated there were three main corrections or improvements needed on Hwy. 44/Main Street:
1) we had to be ADA compliant,
2) we had to improve safety, and
3) we had to fix the Division intersection.
Safety and ADA always had to be present, which is what we did. MnDOT's ADA specialist was in town a few weeks ago. He drove his wheelchair through the entire Main Street while looking at the plans.
He was extremely impressed with the safety and ADA compliance, especially the bumpouts, which increase safety by improving site lines for pedestrians and decrease the distance they need to cross the road.
I do not have the space to discuss the plans, but would welcome talking to any group or individual person to show you details.
I've already sat down with Rachel Olerud and would also meet with Bruce Poole and Nancy Nelson if they choose.
I wish all three of them the best and encourage them to meet with me to see the plans; to find out why we are doing things certain ways; to find out how to continue grants we have started; and to learn the financial planning so they understand the utility bonding to make sure we recoup the engineering fees that have already been paid.
On Nov. 19, I met with our city engineer and had a conference call with MnDOT to plan for the future.
Hundreds of hours have gone into the current plans, and we have made many tweaks along the way. MnDOT has commented on the 95 percent plan and the final 100 percent plan will be given to MnDOT soon. I wanted to know what's next?
I told MnDOT, I wasn't sure what the future council would decide, and I wanted to bring the right facts back to the people of Spring Grove.
Thus far, we have spent approximately $385,000 on engineering fees. This money has been paid out of our reserve fund with the plan to repay ourselves when we start the utility bond.
If the entire project is stopped - this money is lost, and our city cannot afford to lose $385,000.
Also the $1.5 million from the state would be spent elsewhere in the state because this money has to be spent this fiscal year by June 30, 2013.
If the project is stopped, MnDOT will untie the two projects. The two projects are the overlay from the west side of Spring Grove to Hwy. 52 and the Spring Grove Main Street, which means nothing will be done in Spring Grove.
There will be no overlay, no new sidewalks, nothing. The soonest MnDOT can estimate being back in our area is over five years from now with no dates or money promised.
If changes are made to the plan, it could mean the same. The project is on such a tight timeline that if changes are made (the two projects may untie, which may mean higher costs and the chance of losing the $1.5 million).
There are several details in the plan (especially the ADA and Safety) that cannot be changed. If you think the infrastructure, energy efficient lighting and sidewalks need replacing; want the flashing yellow lights at the school; want more legal crosswalks (there are five in the 95 percent plan that cross Main Street); and are concerned with safety crossing our street by the school and between Ivy Grove and the Legion, you need to speak up and call the newly elected officials to make sure this project moves forward.
Let's keep Spring Grove the friendly, loving and honest community we all know and love.
Please continue to come to council meetings, sit down and have a discussion with me, find out the accurate facts.
We need to work together rather than taking sides. My offer is open to meet with anyone. I love Spring Grove, let's keep it the best place to live and visit in Southeast Minnesota.