More road construction in Blaine’s future

For the past three years, the city of Blaine has been emphasizing overlay projects for its pavement management program, but it will soon shift its focus to more expensive reconstruction for streets too far deteriorated for overlays to be effective.

The Blaine City Council discussed this issue during its Oct. 10 and Sept. 12 workshops.

“We’ll never catch up, but every year we try to do as many as we can,” Mayor Tom Ryan said. “As we see the need, we take them on so we don’t have to patch so many holes.”

According to City Engineer Jean Keely, the focus for 2014 and 2015 will be street reconstruction. The council Oct. 3 authorized Keely to begin preparing plans and specifications for projects on Jefferson Street from 125th Avenue to the northern city limits, Able Street from Highway 10 to 89th Avenue and the east Central Avenue service road from 87th to 89th avenues.

Keely told the council that 2015 projects in older areas of the community could be more expensive if the council wanted curb and gutter to replace the ditch drainage systems already in place.

“I think the consensus of the council is if ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Councilmember Dave Clark said.

Councilmember Wes Hovland said, “It’s going to be a case-by-case deal.”

Over the past three years, Blaine has averaged $2.54 million for street improvement projects each year with sightly more dollars coming from the city’s pavement management program fund compared with state aid money that comes from the gas tax.

Public Services Manager Robert Therres said if curb and gutter would be added, a residential lot assessment could be between $2,500 and $3,500 and would likely generate more controversy than past projects.

For instance, only one person spoke at an Oct. 3 public hearing on three roads projects and he just wanted to say he had no problem with the $1,304.46 assessment.

Four people raised questions at the Oct. 17 council meeting public hearing regarding overlay assessments for 2013 projects on multiple streets throughout the community. Another resident emailed an objection to the city because he felt his taxes should cover the overlay project.

Almost all of the assessments were for residential properties in the amount of $535.05, but there were a handful of higher assessments for commercial properties. The most expensive assessment was $5,424.90 for the Cedar Creek Apartment complex in the 11700 block of 3rd Street NE.

“I have no problem with the assessment and taking care of that,” said Deb Murphy.

However, she said pieces of rubber and wire mesh were coming through the asphalt.

Keely said this sometimes happens with reclaimed asphalt, but the contractor has since repaired the problem.

Noah Bock is being assessed for three parcels even though his home is only on one of the properties, but Ryan said everyone is charged for each parcel they own.

Bock’s main concern is that he sees a lot of semis and garbage trucks on the road coming from the industrial park area.

“I’ve actually heard from a trucker I know who drives up and down our street sometimes and they like it now because it’s smoother and quicker,” Bock said.

Ryan said the truckers know they are supposed to take the I-35W service road rather than Xylite Street, but the city knows it does not always happen when the interstate gets backed up.

Bock thinks the city should look at some way to deter truck traffic from Xylite Street such as putting in stop signs to make the route less appealing.

Ryan said trucks may then go to Flanders Street or Rice Creek Parkway.

“One way or another, somebody’s going to get affected by the traffic,” he said.

Beth Nelson and David Ocel feel the city’s notification letters need to be clearer. They believed they would be charged $535.05.

The city’s policy is assessments can be paid off within 30 days of the public hearing or the amount would be included in the individual’s property taxes with interest being charged.

In this case, if the property owner took the maximum allowed five years to pay off the $535.05 assessment, they would actually pay $612.23, according to Keely.

Keely said a majority of the calls city staff took were from residents asking about payment options.

Nelson said the amount should be included in the letters if the actual cost and assessment rate is known, so the council asked city staff to address this when drafting future letters on roads projects to make the communication process more efficient.

“If we’re getting phone calls on this, then we’re taking staff time to answer phone calls on questions that could be answered otherwise,” Councilmember Kathy Kolb said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]