The East Bethel City Council July 5 approved a conceptual list of parks and roads projects that could take place over the next few years.
The purpose of a capital improvement plan (CIP) is to give cities and their citizens a general idea of what the current city council’s priorities are. Just because a project is in a CIP does not preclude the council from scrapping it later.
A new service road on the west side of Highway 65 between 215th and 221st avenues is the largest project slated for 2013 with the price tag currently estimated to be $1,590,968 accounting for construction, engineering, land costs and so on, according to Public Works Manager Nate Ayshford.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is giving East Bethel a $702,000 grant for this project, but the city must close the median at 219th Avenue and vacate the right-turn lane on southbound Highway 65 at 219th Avenue so there are fewer vehicle conflict points.
East Bethel will cover its estimated $888,968 share with more MnDOT money that comes from the gas tax and is distributed through the Municipal State Aid (MSA) road program. Cities can designate a certain percentage of its roads as MSA roads. Although this means more money from MnDOT, the roads must be designed to handle heavier amounts of traffic meaning thicker pavement.
The annual MSA allocation from MnDOT is currently $539,836. With the city’s MSA fund balance at the beginning of 2013 only estimated to be $10,835, the council asked MnDOT to distribute four times the allocation amount. This equals $2,159,344 and is the most the city could have asked for next year.
The advanced funds are also necessary so the city next year can reconstruct the three main roads that enter the Coon Lake Beach neighborhood. These three city streets are Longfellow Drive, Lincoln Drive and Laurel Road and this project is estimated to cost $800,000.
City Engineer Craig Jochum said the city’s MSA allocations in the next few years will go toward paying off the $2,159,344 advanced MSA fund request. The council could technically request another advancement of funds a year or two from now while paying off the former request, he said.
Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr., the council liaison to the roads commission, said the council has to worry about what’s going on now when he was asked for his general thoughts on the council advancing four years of MSA funds.
DeRoche lives in the Coon Lake Beach neighborhood and said these roads have been neglected for so long. Other roads within the neighborhood are being reconstructed this year.
DeRoche was not sold on the importance of the service road, however, because he feels the traffic signal at Highway 65 and 221st Avenue was a good enough safety improvement. Had the signal not gone in, DeRoche could have seen the need for the service road, he said.
East Bethel actually had to advance its 2013 MSA payment to 2012 to pay for the reconstruction of Jackson Street between 181st Avenue to Viking Boulevard. This project will occur this fall, Ayshford said.
To DeRoche’s recollection, no major road projects had to be put on the chopping block due to future funds being allocated to 2013, he said.
According to the CIPs dating back to 2010, the only other major MSA project on tap besides the ones that have been or will be done is the reconstruction of 187th Lane west of Highway 65. Jochum said most of that was overlaid as part of the sewer and water project.
The least expensive, but more frequent seal coating and overlay projects receive funding from the local property taxpayers via a $425,000 transfer from the general fund to the streets capital fund. Eleven seal coating projects estimated to cost $230,300 along with the seal coating and overlay of the Whispering Aspen area for an estimated cost of $250,000 are other projects that are currently budgeted for 2013.
Although the document the council approved was titled the 2013-2015 Parks and Trails Capital Improvement Program, no trails are planned.
The trails fund is expected to have $140,000 sitting unused at the beginning of 2013 and the council is tentatively planning to only put in $5,000 annually over the next three years.
This is a far cry from the $62,139 that was transferred in 2010 or the $58,484 moved in 2011, but the current council put an extensive trail project between Booster Park and the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve on hold. The previous council had been transferring higher amounts to build up a revenue stream for this project.
On the other hand, the current council increased the transfer from the general fund to the parks fund by about $6,000 to an amount of $100,000.
Installing a playground at the Whispering Aspen Community Center, replacing the roof at the Whispering Aspen community center and new playground equipment at Whispering Oaks are the three parks projects anticipated to take place in 2013.
Eric Hagen is at email@example.com