Council orders plans for Sunset St. improvements

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Albert Lea City Council ordered the improvement and preparation of plans for Sunset Street on Monday after opposition to the project was expressed by local residents.

The measure passed on a 5-1 vote. Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. and councilors Reid Olson, Jason Howland, Rich Murray and Al “Minnow” Brooks voted yes. Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker voted no. Ward 5 Councilor Robert Rasmussen was absent.

Sunset Street work will include the reconstruction of the concrete surface, curb and gutter, water main, sanitary sewer and storm sewer.

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Parking would be eliminated on the north side of the road and a sidewalk would be added. Nine parking stalls would be added in front of Fountain Lake Estates.

Dennis Hansel, of 1713 Sunset St., read a letter representing four residents that opposed who proposed project. He raised safety concerns, and he questioned the need to build a sidewalk on Sunset Street.

“Where’s our money coming from to pay for this?” he said. “It’s going to be a hardship for many people on the street.”

Mike Callahan, of 1512 Sunset St., said the project was not necessary because there are roads in the community that are in worse shape.

“I would just assume they not go ahead with the project,” he said.

Norma Levorson, of 1627 Sunset St., said she preferred parking on the north side of Sunset Street, and she expressed financial concerns about the project.

“We have people up there who cannot afford this,” she said. According to Levorson, assessments over 10 years would place too much of a burden on residents.

“You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip,” she said.

Public forum presenters also discussed safety concerns on Sunset Street due to the speed of traffic that flows through the area and the abundance of children in the neighborhood.

Albert Lea City Engineer Steven Jahnke said the project will help pedestrians who walk to Lakeview Boulevard from Sunset Street.

Jahnke hopes a narrower corridor will slow down traffic in the area.

The $1.9 million project is expected to be paid for with municipal state aid funds, sewer funds, water funds and assessments.

Assessments are planned to be over 10 years. The average assessment is just under $9,000. The highest assessment is expected to be more than $23,000, and the lowest assessment is about $2,000.

Vern Rasmussen Jr. said he supports the project. According to Rasmussen, speed concerns on the roadway make a sidewalk more important. He said though ideas to add sidewalks are not initially popular, residents typically do not express concern after the sidewalk is in place.

According to Rasmussen, implementing the sidewalk is a part of attempting to connect the community.

Baker said though he supports the reconstruction of Sunset Street, he did not vote for the measure because of the proposed sidewalk.

In other action, the council:

• Approved plans and specifications and ordered the advertising of bids for the 2017 neighborhood improvement project, East Main Street Frontage Road and Landfill Road reconstruction project.

• Authorized the city of Albert Lea and Albert Lea Township to enter into an agreement for fire protection services. A separate agreement for fire protection services was made with Pickerel Lake Township.

• Approved a lot consolidation through an administrative lot survey at 414 Commercial St. • Approved the purchase of a replacement 2017 Caterpillar wheel loader for about $178,000, dozer for about $131,000 and 2017 John Deere tractor backhoe for about $141,000.

• Accepted an amendment to the joint powers agreement between the South Central Drug Investigation Unit and the city of Albert Lea.

• Approved waiving building permit fees for Small Cities Development Program commercial or rental rehabilitation in the city’s Historic Preservation District.

• Recognized graduates of the city’s first graduates of its Citizens Police Academy for Spanish speakers.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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