Anoka going out for bids on street project

by Mandy Moran Froemming
Union Editor

Work to renew more than a mile of streets in the southeast corner of Anoka is moving ahead.

The Anoka City Council has approved the plans and specifications for the project, which will now go out for bids. The extended street renewal project for 2012 will wrap up the neighborhood in the southeast corner of the city, near the Mississippi River.

Streets included in the 2012 program will be: Queens Lane (East River to River Lane), Eastwood Lane (Birch Street to south cul de sac), Ninth Avenue (Oakwood Drive to River Lane), Oakwood Drive (Queens Lane to Ninth Avenue), Birch Street (Eastwood Lane to Ninth Avenue), Pine Street (Queens Lane to Ninth Avenue), River Lane (Queens Lane to Ninth Avenue), Elm Street (Queens Lane to east end).

The $2.3 million project will include the total reconstruction of streets as well as the replacement of underground utilities.

The city is expected to award a construction contract March 19.

“I hope (the bids) are as favorable as they have been over the last couple of years,” said Mayor Phil Rice. “It would be nice to see those continued savings and added value for the project and the dollars we are spending investing in our community.”

Agreement with Coon Rapids

Ninth Avenue is a unique street in that the right of way is located in Anoka, but the properties that will benefit from the road reconstruction are in Coon Rapids.

As a result, Anoka is entering into a joint powers agreement with the city of Coon Rapids, to share the cost of upgrading the road.

Coon Rapids is agreeing to pay $104,000 toward the reconstruction of the street.

Public Services Director Greg Lee said how the city handles that charge with its residents will be determined by the neighboring city.

“It will be up to the city of Coon Rapids how they want to do that, if they want to assess those properties for that benefit, and I believe that’s the route they are going to go,” said Lee.

Decent deal for citizens

The council also spent some time discussing its assessment rates for street renewal projects, which have been under 20 percent of the project cost for the last three years.

“The taxpayers are getting a really wonderful bargain when we do a complete street renewal project,” said Councilmember Jeff Weaver.

Recent media attention on other metro cities’ assessment policies that can range anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of the project costs has Anoka at the lower end of the spectrum.

According to City Manager Tim Cruikshank, the city needs to be able to prove the value of a property will increase at least as much as the owner is assessed for the road project.

“At the end of the day we have to be able to defend that amount of benefit for the project,” said Cruikshank.

The city has been challenged on this before, went to court and won, he said.

“We know that our policy works and the amount we’re assessing is defensible,” Cruikshank said.

The council did question whether the city will be able to continue to keep assessments below 20 percent of project costs.

“The city’s street renewal project has been set up as a self-sustaining program where there will be funds available to continue this process indefinitely,” said Lee.

Cruikshank agreed.

“We’re on track to continue to do this for a long time,” he said.

Street renewal is also paid for by the city’s water and sewer funds, which are supported by ratepayers. Some of those users, like local churches, schools and government entities, are tax exempt.

But as Councilmember Steve Schmidt pointed out, they do still contribute to the projects through the fees they pay the city.

“It isn’t just citizens, it is all the customers who are using our services who allow us to build that pot and maintain that 20 percent,” said Schmidt.

According to Weaver, the city does not assess property owners at all for its mill and overlay projects, which are actually a full reclamation of the pavement before a new surface is put down.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]