Council splits on sidewalk issue

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Concerns about the installation of a sidewalk on Margaretha Avenue split the Albert Lea City Council Monday during a vote on the city’s proposed state aid neighborhood improvement project for the year.

After discussion about the issue, councilors voted 4-2 to move forward with the project — but without the sidewalk on the west side of Margaretha Avenue from 14th Street to 19th Street.

Ellen Kehr

Councilors Ellen Kehr and Larry Baker voted to include the sidewalk, while councilors Larry Anderson, Reid Olson, Minnow Brooks and Mayor Vern Rasmussen voted against it.

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Kehr said she voted in favor of the sidewalk because it correlates with the city’s complete streets policy and comprehensive plan.

“My question is, are we going to continue to follow the plan for our entire community, or are we going to do it for just some of the community,” Kehr said. “I don’t believe we should start picking and choosing which part of the community should have sidewalks.”

Brooks said he didn’t think it would serve the public to add a sidewalk in that particular area and noted that a majority of the homeowners who the sidewalk would affect were against it.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen echoed Brooks’ comments, stating he didn’t think the sidewalk would benefit the entire community. He said he also had to take into consideration current financial issues, especially considering the city will have to bond for its portion of the project.

“While I support walkability of our community, I also think we need to take a few looks at some of these areas,” Rasmussen said.

Vern Rasmussen

He said concerns that these people had about having to shovel the sidewalk did not play into his decision.

Despite the change in the plans for a sidewalk, the other parts of the project will go forward as proposed.

This includes bituminous overlay of four state-aid streets:

• Eighth Street from Broadway Avenue to Margaretha Avenue

• Margaretha Avenue from 14th Street to 19th Street

• Garfield Avenue from the railroad to Fairlane Terrace

• Greenwood Drive from the bridge to Hammer Road.

It would also involve replacing sections of curb and gutter that have settled and are causing drainage issues, along with replacing damaged settled sections of sidewalk.

Margaretha Avenue from 16th Street to 17th Street would be widened and new curb and gutter would be installed along the west side of the road.

The total estimated cost for the entire project without the Margaretha Avenue sidewalk is about $609,000, with about $220,000 being assessed to adjacent property owners and about $347,000 being funded by state aid funds. The remainder is city costs or money held for future assessments.

The cost of the sidewalk was estimated at about $66,000.

In other action, the City Council:

• Ordered the plans for the 2011 Neighborhood Improvement Project, which includes bituminous overlay of residential streets in the southeast part of the city.

Streets include the following:

— 11th Street from Margaretha Avenue to the east end

— 16th Street from Myers Road to the east end

— 17th Street from Margaretha Avenue to Gene Avenue

— Larson Avenue from 19th Street to the north end

— Gene Avenue from 16th Street to south of 17th Street

— 14th Street from Myers Road to the east end

— 16th Street from Margaretha Avenue to Gene Avenue

— 18th Street from Larson Avenue to Milo Avenue

— Milo Avenue from 16th Street to 17th Street

— Botsford Avenue from Lakeview Boulevard to the end

The project also includes a series of smaller reconstructions:

— Installation of bituminous surface on 16th Street from Gene Avenue to the east end. This road is currently gravel.

— Installation of bituminous surface, along with curb and gutter, on 17th Street from Gene Avenue to the east end.

— Installation of bituminous surface and curb and gutter on the north side of 18th Street from Larson Avenue to the west end.

— Replacement of bituminous on Milo Avenue.

— Reconstruction of the cul-de-sac on Bay Oaks Drive, including the installation of a subsurface drain tile. The bituminous surface on this road has reportedly deteriorated.

Because this section of pavement failed before the 20-year replacement period ended, the work will not be assessed to the adjacent homeowners.

• Approved an agreement with Alden for building inspection services.

Under the agreement, the Albert Lea Inspection Department will be used to enforce Alden’s rental housing and minimum housing ordinances.

• Approved labor agreements for police and dispatchers of the Teamsters Local 320 unit.

The one-year agreements include a 1.25 percent cost of living wage increase, with eligible employees receiving a step increase midyear.

The city is also picking up 100 percent of the increases toward health insurance.

• Approved the Broadway Ridge Renewal Grant Fund, changing the program from being a loan fund to one that offers grants.

There is currently $193,000 in the fund, which seeks to promote renovations of the facades of buildings on Broadway Avenue in downtown Albert Lea.

• Approved an amendment between the state, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the city to extend the completion date of North Edgewater Park project until July 6, 2011.

The amendment also provides the city an additional about $59,000 under the 2009 bonding bill. The money will be used to replace the park playground equipment and for a portion of the new pavilion.

• Approved a division of a lot at 2205 Myers Road.

• Authorized no parking on the west side of Margaretha Avenue from 14th Street to 19th Street to meet state aid fund requirements.

• Waived the Blazing Star Trail Joint Powers Board annual audit.

The only activity in 2010 was 12 months of interest earnings and one check.

• Approved a request from the Albert Lea Cloverleaf Lions Club to use the main hangar at the Albert Lea Airport on June 12 for the annual flight breakfast.