The city of Le Sueur tackled recent and upcoming infrastructure projects at the council’s Monday meeting.
After the recent completion of street reconstruction on Elmwood Avenue, the City Council made a unanimous, but controversial, vote to open the Coventry Road and Elmwood Avenue intersection on June 1. The council also approved the issuance of a $7.8 million bond sale to fund the reconnection of Main Street, a new water tower and the purchase of a new fire truck and tanker truck.
The city of Le Sueur forged ahead on plans long-closed intersection of Coventry and Elmwood, a proposal that became the subject of heated debate when it was initially put forward last year.
City staff view opening the intersection as an opportunity to promote connectivity and growth in Le Sueur. Local fire and police departments have also expressed support for the change, commenting that removing the barricade would lower emergency response times. Currently, an emergency vehicle traveling north on Elmwood would need to drive past Coventry and turn on to Inner Drive and South Park Lane to reach the neighborhood.
But many residents in the area opposed the proposal over concerns that vehicles coming into town from 112 were frequently speeding. The road transitions from 55 mph to 50 mph to 30 mph before passing Coventry Road and many residents worried about a potential safety hazard if speeding drivers could turn onto Coventry. A recent petition sent to the council received some 200 signatures.
But city staff maintain that lowering the roadway profile during the Hwy. 112/County Road 22 reconstruction project has resulted in a safer intersection even if cars travel down the hill at excessive speeds.
Elmwood’s profile was lowered by 2 feet to allow for greater sight distance to support the intersection. For a left turn from stop to the left, there is 660 degrees of available sight distance. 400 degrees is required for vehicles traveling 30 mph and 525 is required for 40 mph. The sight distance for a left turn from stop to the right is 1,000 degrees, more than the 660 degrees required for a vehicle traveling 40 mph.
“Even though there’s a group of residents that remain opposed to the opening, there’s no valid reason to keep the intersection closed,” said City Councilor Scott Schlueter. “[County Road] 22 reconstruction removed the line of sight issue that was a problem with the intersection in the past.“
Before the council’s decision, councilors, city staff and emergency services met with residents at the planned intersection on May 17 for a Q&A session. Approximately 28 people appeared according to city estimates. City Engineer Corey Bienfang hoped that allowing residents to see the line of sight changes would assuage concerns.
“There was representation from both sides,” said Bienfang. “There was vocalized opposition which we saw from previous meetings and also vocalized support. Probably the most vocalized support we’ve seen publicly was on Monday.”
In preparation for upcoming projects, the City Council issued a bond sale and held a tax abatement public hearing before approving a $7.8 million issuance to low bidder FHN Capital Markets at a 1.75% interest rate.
Of the $7.8 million general obligation bonds, the city may repay up to $1.39 million of the funds reserved for the Main Street project through a tax levy. If the city wishes to issue a tax levy for the project, Le Sueur is required under state statute to identify properties benefiting from the reconnection for tax abatement purposes.
But the tax abatement process won’t put an extra cost burden on benefiting residential properties, said Public Finance Advisor Shannon Sweeney.
“At the end of the day, the levy that’s made to pay the bonds is spread over the entire community in the same manner as any other general fund levy,” Sweeney said. “So we’re not picking on folks,we’re not identifying properties to tax them any differently than anyone else. Ultimately it’s a procedural requirement.”
The ongoing Main Street construction project will join together North and South Main Street for a multi-use traffic roadway. Design plans feature new storefronts at the Le Sueur mall, a kiosk welcoming visitors to Le Sueur and a river-shaped crosswalk in the middle.