By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
The road construction projects and the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) projects are completed in Pierz — one project a bit under estimates, the other a bit over.
Monday, the Council approved making the fourth payment of $143,665.09 for the Park Avenue/Robert Street projects. The total amount of the project came in at $648,973.93, $15,000 less than budget.
Of that amount, $549,706.67 will be paid by the city and 16 percent, or $99,267.26, will be assessed against benefited property owners. Council Member Stephanie Fyten abstained from the vote, because she is one of the affected property owners.
However, the SRTS project came in at $20,000 over budget. Most of this project was paid for by a grant through the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the program that uses federal funding. SRTS projects are designed to make biking and walking to school safer and more appealing to students and their families, encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle.
Pierz first applied for the $450,000 grant four years ago, and in 2011, the grant was awarded for the project that was eventually delayed until 2013.
Earlier this year, when bids for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project in Pierz came in over budget by $100,745.15, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) agreed to pay for all but $23,000 of the total. The city paid the rest.
However, the Council learned Monday night that because many areas where new sidewalks were installed, retrofitting was necessary, the project will cost the city another $20,000.
Scott Hedlund, engineer with Short Elliott Hendrickson, said field decisions to retrofit were made at about 20 different sites.
Public Works Supervisor Bob Otremba likened it to remodeling.
“No matter what you do in the office,” said Otremba, “It’s not going to make it fit.” Otremba said decisions were made to ensure the retrofits would be done just once, instead of having to come back to deal with drainage issues, issues where concrete had to be elevated to match existing sidewalks and more.
The mayor wasn’t happy about the additional costs.
“SRTS cost $43,000 more than anticipated,” said Egan. “That’s not good. All the extra elevated concrete — didn’t anyone look at that?”
Council Member Mike Menden said, “It’s not easy to swallow. But it’s done, fixed, we have to pay it.”
Council Member Matt Bell said he was confident the right decisions were made.
“Look on the bright side,” said Menden. “Most of the project was paid for by a grant and got the city up to speed and looking good.”
Egan said the project had been looked at for several years and didn’t like that the city had to come up with extra funds at the end of the project.
“I think we made good decisions,” said Otremba. “We could go back over every one to see what could have been done differently.”
Hedlund pointed out that the Park Avenue/Robert Street project came in under budget, which may help with the overage in the SRTS project.
“Let’s figure out how to pay for it,” said Egan.
City Administrator Anna Gruber said so far plans have been made to pay for the projects out of dedicated funds and that investment funds had not been touched.
The required public assessment hearing regarding the Park Avenue/Robert Street project will be held Monday, Oct. 14, between 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Pierz City Council Briefs
In other business Monday, the Pierz City Council:
• Learned that a farmer’s market and food truck would be in the city Friday, Sept. 13 and again Friday, Sept. 27, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. across from Rolling Hills Greenhouse, on Main Street North. The market will be supplied by Sprout Minnesota and a food truck provided by Prairie Bay Side Dish Local Motive Kitchen, based out of Baxter;
• Tabled a decision on whether to proceed with a feasibility study for a pool located within the city;
• Learned that Wednesday, Oct. 9, will be “Walk to School Day.” Since the city’s Safe Routes to School project is completed, students will gather at set places to walk to school together;
• Were reminded that Monday, Sept. 16, employee reviews would begin at 5:30 p.m.;
• Heard Pierz Police Chief Eric Hanneken report that the first days of school went well, with speeding being the most frequent complaint. Hanneken said officers will be on extra watch for speeders and issue tickets to encourage people to slow down when driving; and
• Learned that Tom and Bob Stoll wanted to fund a memorial bridge at the Pierz Golf Course, in honor of their father, Bill Stoll.
The next Pierz City Council meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.