The North Branch City Council Monday night unanimously approved the first component of a project that would result in the paving of 410th Street.
Justin Messner, an engineer with WSB and Associates, presented the project to the council.
He explained the area for the paving would be 410th Street from Forest Boulevard to approximately 1,000 feet east of Hemingway Avenue. It also includes the intersection of Hemingway Avenue from 410th Street 500 feet south.
In 2009, a traffic study was conducted on the roadway, which showed an average of 710 cars a day driving down the thoroughfare.
The amount of traffic, combined with interest from the residents in the area to have the roadway paved was the reason for the city asking WSB to put together a feasibility study.
Messner said the estimated cost of the project is about $840,000. Of that amount, $683,000 would be covered by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The other $155,500 would come from assessments from city residents who live in the area of the proposed paving.
Most residents who approached the council to comment about the project were in support of it and said they were fine paying the assessments, some of which were proposed at $6,500 a parcel.
That amount can be paid in full or over a 15-year period.
“My wife and I are in full support of this project,” resident Scott Bauman said.
Resident Joe Scaramell echoed that sentiment.
“It’s been a long time coming to have some pavement,” he said, noting that he does not want the area to be used as a through-road for large trucks if it’s paved.
City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad said having the area open to truck traffic is not the intention of the city.
Resident Ellen Johnson was one of the few who voiced opposition to the project.
“I’m not in favor of this,” she said. “My husband and I chose to live there because this was a country road.”
At the end of his presentation, Messner presented a project timeline to the council.
His firm plans to begin plans and specifications in April or May, and then the project would be sent for MnDOT review in May. Sometime that month, WSB would come before the council again and ask the city to send out assessment notices to residents. An assessment hearing would take place in June. After the assessment hearing, WSB would go out for bid on the project, accept a bid and award the project in July. Construction would start in August, and the project would be mostly complete by October.
In addition to the paving of the road, WSB looked into the feasibility of widening the shoulders and adding parking near Roger Johnson Memorial Park.
The cost for a 4-foot shoulder was estimated at $32,000; the amount for the parking was figured at $28,000.
Water and Light Commission membership discussion
The council directed state legislators Bob Barrett and Sean Nienow to look into drafting legislation that would allow cities to expand their municipal water and light commissions from three to five members.
The proposed legislation that was brought back to the council would allow for an up to seven-member commission.
The council, noting that’s not what they asked for, agreed it would be best to pursue a five-member commission.
City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad, reached by phone Tuesday, said the legislation would have to be approved at the state level, and then the city could change its ordinance to accommodate five members and denote whether or not they wanted members on the commission to be city residents.
Councilmember Joyce Borchardt said having a larger commission would help with governmental transparency, and it would also help with the scheduling of meetings, because if one member of the commission can’t make the monthly meeting, they are sometimes postponed.
Councilmember Kathy Blomquist, who used to serve on the commission, said if one member couldn’t make it to a meeting, the commission would sometimes just conduct business with two members, which worked fine, in her opinion.
Residents who approached the council to address the issue agreed they wanted members of the commission to be residents, but there was contention about the possible increase in membership.
Former Councilmember and Mayor Amy Oehlers said she served on the council for 12 years, and during that time there was never a discussion about going to five members on the commission. She was in favor of staying with three.
Resident Bob Streater disagreed with Oehlers, bringing up the same point as Borchardt that an increase in membership would mean more governmental transparency.
“Three is not perfection,” he said.
Parking near Hallmark store
The council decided to have the city monitor parking near the current Skelly’s Hallmark store near the intersection of Forest Boulevard and Highway 95, rather than banning parking in front of the store. The owner of the building, Joel Skelton, is looking to sell the store, and he said a parking restriction could impede his ability to do so.