Pierz’ Park Avenue/Robert Street and SRTS projects may be pushed to 2013

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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The proposed Park Avenue and Robert Street projects, as well as the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project in Pierz may have to wait until 2013.

Several easements are needed to do the work; one on a home on the corner of Robert Street and Park Avenue, which is in foreclosure  and owned by Wells Fargo Bank.

City engineer and project manager, Scott Hedlund, with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH), told the Pierz City Council Monday night, he was still working on the plans and they should be done by the end of the month. A SRTS meeting with the school district went well, he said, and all was pretty close with the SRTS project.

The easement issue with the foreclosure property is in the hands of the city’s attorney, but he said several permanent easements were still needed in the city, and a dozen temporary easements would be needed when construction started.

The SRTS project memorandum had not yet been submitted, because of the easement issues.

Until that has been finished and submitted to the state, nothing else can be started on the project, he said. “Mid-March at the earliest,” he said.

Hedlund said the city could push the SRTS project to 2013, and continue with the Park Avenue and Robert Street projects — without the sidewalk portion of the project, due to the easement needed on the foreclosed property.

Hedlund said the sidewalks could be added on Park Avenue and Robert Street in 2013, with the SRTS project. This year, the first layer of blacktop could be added on the two roads, and next year, after the sidewalks are put in with the SRTS project, the second layer could be put down.

Mayor Toby Egan said he didn’t want residents living in a construction zone for two years.

“It’s beyond our control on the SRTS with the easement issues,” said Hedlund. “Even if we pull out the foreclosure property, there are still other easements needed. We could run into issues with those.”

Hedlund said pushing the SRTS project to 2013 wouldn’t mean the city would lose the $450,000 federal grant it received to do the project, which is aimed at promoting safety for children on their routes to school, as well as promoting riding a bicycle or walking to school.

The only risk, Hedlund said, may be losing the $90,000 low-interest Public Facilities Authority (PFA) loan through the state.

The city must also work with the Rich Prairie Sewer and Water District (RPSWD), because while these roads were torn up for reconstruction, infrastructure would have been replaced as well.

“We can’t move forward with eminent domain until the SRTS project memorandum is done. The eminent domain process takes 90 days, then a court date is set,” said Gruber. “We could be looking at July, August or September, before the project begins.”

Hedlund said a rigid timeline is set for projects, and the eminent domain issues could cause issues.

The Council tabled the decision on whether to push one or both projects back to 2013 to its Feb. 27 meeting.

Work on the SRTS project memorandum will continue, as well as the attorney’s work on the easement and eminent domain issues.

In the meantime, RPSWD and the county will be contacted regarding the possible change in plans.