After two years of development, the Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners unanimously accepted a bid for a project to repair sidewalks in the city of Le Sueur.
The project will replace approximately five blocks of sidewalk along county roads and 31 blocks of sidewalk along city roads within the city of Le Sueur. The sidewalks being repaired were found to be too narrow, in poor condition or out of compliance. It is also a part of a regional “Safe Routes to School” initiative to improve walkways used by children between classes.
At a board meeting Aug. 6, the commissioners received a single bid of $1.07 million for the project from Le Center construction firm Tri-Zack Concrete, Inc. This amount was well above the county engineer’s estimate of $850,000. However, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is funding about 80% of the project, confirmed that they would provide additional funds.
The rest of the costs, totaling just over $200,000, are split between the county and Le Sueur. Sidewalks along county roads are to be paid for by the county, while Le Sueur will pay for sidewalks on city property.
Project development had been halted prior to May 2019, because the city of Le Sueur struggled with deciding how to fund the project.
Le Sueur City Council first debated the project in 2017 and city sidewalk project policy at the time required that half of the city’s project cost be paid by the city’s general fund and the other half needed to be funded by assessments of property owners in the affected areas.
However, in May of that year, an analysis conducted by city staff revealed that the project would become more expensive if the city acquired easements from property owners. Staff estimated that the permanent easements would cost the city over $30,000, while temporary easements would require about $3,000.
The City Council voted in June 2017 to approve the no special assessment policy for the project and any sidewalk replacements or new construction going forward. Instead, the funds for all of the city’s cost will come from the city’s general fund.
Eventually, through a partnership with the county, the Le Sueur City Council had acquired funding for the project through Minnesota’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
Commissioner John King questioned why the sidewalk project should have any county involvement.
“Any sidewalk that’s going along a county road we share in paying what’s not already funded by federal dollars, but all the rest of it, just on city streets, that’s the responsibility of the city, correct?” King queried. “So why is this a county project if it’s sidewalk in the city?”
County Highway Department Director David Tiegs explained that county involvement was necessary to help Le Sueur acquire state funding for the project.
“It’s a county project, because it’s state aid, but in order for the city to get these funds, they have to have a sponsor for a city under 5,000 [people] and the county is capable of being a government sponsor.”
Tiegs also confirmed that the city of Le Sueur had the funds for its portion of the project.
“They had not brought it to the City Council but it falls within their budgeted amount for the project,” said Tiegs.
The Commissioners ultimately agreed to accept the bid and fund the project, contingent upon approval from the Office of Civil Rights.