After years of planning, SRTS project to proceed in Royalton

After several years of planning, the Royalton City Council voted, 4-1, Tuesday to take the final step and approved the bids for the Safe Route to School (SRTS) project. The scope of the project was approved unanimously by the Council in January.

In January, the plans approved said the route would “go down Driftwood Street from the elementary school to Third Street South with the understanding the side walk would be placed on the east side of Driftwood.”

Bids approved Tuesday were for the same plan.

However, Council Member Kelly Warzecha, who has been on the Council for 2 1/2 years, said, “I am mad. That sidewalk will be 20 feet from my house. I am not approving it if it is going through my yard. This is ridiculous. It needs to go on the other side. I have brought this to the Council before. Nobody on the street was notified of this.”

Project Engineer Scott Hedlund of Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) told the Council the area in the project was on city right of way.

“I don’t care,” Warzecha said. “This is absolutely ridiculous.”

“There were public hearings held on this project,” Mayor Andrea Lauer said.

She said Safe Routes to Schools has two parts: planning and implementing. There are separate applications for each and both are highly comparative.

“We applied numerous times for the implementation grant and it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that our application of $177,440 was approved,” Lauer said. “The Council agreed to put an additional $30,000 into the project, knowing we had three or more years to budget for the project. Morrison County had $18,394 from another project that could be used for this project.”

During the planning stages, a series of meetings was held with residents, school administrators, city police and the mayor to determine the best placement of a sidewalk from south Driftwood to the elementary school.

A traffic study was done by the school administration and chief of police. From the study, it was determined the safest route for children was to place the sidewalk on the east side of Driftwood. On the west side of the street, there is a lift station and garage in the city right of way and more streets to cross if the sidewalk was placed on that side.

The project also includes: three solar speed signs located on north Hawthorn, south Hawthorn and east Centre Street by Riverside Assisted Living. There will also be a push button traffic control beacon on the corner of Centre and Driftwood to assist with safe crossing of the busy county road.

Following the completion of the SRTS project, the county plans to overlay Centre Street from the west end to the junction of Hawthorn and continue south on County Road 54.

“We have invested money. The county has invested money. If we do not move forward, we will lose it,” Lauer said.

“These projects take years to develop. These decisions were made when you applied for the grant funding. You can’t come into the final meeting and make changes. We scaled down the project already because the plans were too large for you,” said Morrison County Director of Public Works Steve Backowski.

“I think to change this project now would be very difficult,” Morrison County Commissioner Randy Winscher said.

The total cost to the city is approximately $280,000 which includes the grant money.

Following the vote to accept the bids, Warzecha left the meeting not to return.

Warzecha said “no comment” when asked later about the issue.

Royalton City Council Briefs

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Royalton City Council:

  • Approved the police body camera policy;
  • Heard the fire department had received a joint grant with the Rice Fire department for $179,944. The money will be used to purchase breathing apparatus equipment for the department
  • Heard employee Preston Zimny had received his Class D waterworks certification;
  • Approved a one-year animal permit allowing Marie Exnar to raise three to 10 rabbits;
  • Approved a step increase for employee Danny McDougall;
  • Heard the Planning Commission is reviewing the property maintenance ordinance and addressing the issue of golf cart permits;
  • Tabled action on signing an agreement with the Minneapolis Police Department to provide assistance during the upcoming Super Bowl activities; and
  • Accepted bids for the Industrial Park and Splash Park projects pending project bonding.

The Council next meets Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.