At its second meeting of the new year, the Waseca City Council held a lengthy discussion on the planned Eighth Avenue reconstruction project, eventually moving that project forward by sending out requests for proposals to four different construction companies.
Back in 2022, the Waseca County Board of Commissioners took a look at the stretch of Eighth Avenue NE that runs between Third Street NE and Clear Lake Drive. It was determined, at that time, that “it has deteriorated and is in need of replacement,” according to City Engineer Nate Wiley. The project, which became part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan for 2024, is set to not only include a reconstruction of the road, but also feature improvements to the city utilities and the construction of new ADA compliant sidewalks and trails.
On Tuesday, Nov. 1, Wiley presented a resolution to the City Council, asking it to authorize the city to enter into a contract with Stantec to prepare a feasibility report to show if the planned project on Eighth Avenue was “necessary, cost-effective, and feasible.”
Since part of the road is under county jurisdiction, and part of the property is under city jurisdiction, it was determined that the costs for this project would be split between the city and county. As the city will be looking to use assessments to cover part of its share of the cost, a feasibility report was needed.
While Wiley said at the council’s Jan. 17 meeting that the city still hasn’t received the report back yet, he said he was expecting it “by the end of the week” and that the city was hoping to move forward with the RFP’s for the project.
“Staff is requesting to release RFPs for the design of the project to the four construction companies listed,” Wiley said. The companies listed were Stantec, Widseth, Bolton and Menk and Stonebrooke, all of whom were chosen based on their past work with the city and county, Wiley said.
Wiley said that the RFPs that would be sent out would only be for a firm to design the project, with the actual construction not slated to begin until spring of 2024. After all the RFPs are in, Wiley said staff will look over each proposal, and draft a contract with the one they find most beneficial to the city. After that, they’ll present the contract to the council. Should it be approved, the design work would begin in April.
Many of the initial questions that came in for Wiley surrounded who would maintain and repair the sidewalk; whether that would be a job for the city or for the county. Interim City Manager Carl Sonnenberg said that the city’s current plan, as with other county-owned roads in city limits, would be to take care of and maintain the property with city staff, and then bill the county at the end of the year for the costs associated with that work.
Predictably, as with any project that the city plans to use assessments on, questions over the utility of assessments eventually started coming up.
“I know it’s been discussed, and we’ve been given an estimate before, but do we know the cost difference between concrete and asphalt,” Councilor James Ebertowski said. Ebertowski was referring to the county’s decision to stick with concrete for the project, instead of changing the street to an asphalt one.
While the decision will keep the street looking like it did before, concrete is a more costly product than asphalt. Wiley explained that, since the decision to use concrete was the county’s decision, the difference in cost would be factored into the eventual cost-participation agreement, which has not been drafted yet.
“That brings me into my next question, with the cost difference, I know it’s been standard, but assessing on that … places a burden on the property owners, whether they were given the option to pay monthly or all at once,” Ebertowski said. “I know Mr. Mansfield has brought up those concerns with the last project we did, and I shared those concerns, so I just wanted to keep that in mind.”
Ebertowski was referencing the city’s Eighth Street rehabilitation project. The project saw nearly 70 properties assessed for part of the costs, one of which being the property of Councilor John Mansfield, who, along with his wife, brought up questions over the city’s assessment policy during that time.
“These roads are used heavily by the community, and [the residents of Eighth Street] are being dictated that we have to pay for the entirety of it,” Mansfield said at the time. “It’s an injustice to the community.”
While Mansfield brought up few concerns over the assessment policy at the Nov. 1 meeting, where the Eighth Avenue project was first brought up, he did hold the sole opposing vote, as the project moved forward with a feasibility report. Ebertowski moved on to his next question before Wiley had a chance to respond to his assessment concerns.
Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to approve the sending of RFPs to the four construction companies. Requests are due by Thursday, Feb. 23, and the council hopes to have the full design specifications prepared by December 2023, so they can move forward with construction starting in spring 2024.