Streetscape Project By the Numbers

Ashley Limesand
Staff Writer

Local city leaders gathered at City Hall early on the morning of Thursday, March 29 for a special commission meeting to consider the bid items involved in the Streetscape Project. While final plans and specifications for the project were just recently approved during the March 20 regularly scheduled commission meeting and are set to be bid on May 11, changes in the state funded portion created a need to discuss additional fees in the estimated cost as well as how to proceed moving forward.

Up until now, the figures of $1.2 million in state funding with around $300,000 for the local share has been the going rate for the project.

While concrete pavement repair was already scheduled to occur as part of the Urban Roads Program, local efforts to improve the downtown streetscape were recognized by the state and the city was awarded money at an 80/20 cost share to complete some of this work. With $300,000 already available locally in the budget for a downtown improvement effort, that gave the city an estimated $1.2 million for the state to work with in additional funding to fill out that 80/20 split.

What started as a vision of new streetlights to give the downtown a more intimate feel, soon morphed into a vision of downtown vibrancy and revitalization that included wider sidewalks, bump outs, and new traffic signals as well as the new streetlights.
Today, the two projects are developed for bid and a more accurate estimate of cost has been released.

For the concrete pavement repair project which will repair the concrete on Central Avenue from Main Street to 12th Street N., the estimated cost of the entire project comes in at a total of $314,085 with $75,980.85 being the local share.

For the streetscape project, the estimated cost of the entire project which includes the bump outs, traffic signals, wider sidewalks, and street lighting, now comes in at a total of $1,913,754.55 with $456,100.41 being the local share.

At the same time and also under the Urban Roads Program the city has developed and received approval for a reconstruction project on Third Avenue SE from Fourth Street SE to Main Street. This project is estimated to cost $1,153,946.26 with $452,404.43 being the local share. This area will also include decorative street lighting.

At this point, one may ask why are we talking about the Third Avenue reconstruction?

Well, it was originally understood that only the streetscape portion of the project would fall under what is being coined as the Urban Grant Program qualifying for federal funding through an 80/20 split, but it was recently discovered by KLJ that because decorative lighting is included in the project the entire thing, as well as the concrete repair portion of the Central Avenue project falls under this Urban Grant Program along with the streetscape portion.

This means that out of an estimated total of $3,381,785.81 worth of projects, $2,397,300.13 is federally funded through additional funding that Valley City would not otherwise have seen. Also, with two of the Urban Road Program projects qualifying for the Urban Grant Program, this leaves the estimated $828,267.23 that would have been used for the two projects in the Urban Road Program Fund untouched, as funds are allotted to all cities each year for such projects.

Of the remaining $984,485.68 the portion estimated for the concrete pavement repair project will be paid for through as it would have had it remained in the Urban Road Program, with 50 precent being funded through the Infrastructure Renew and Replacement Fund and 50 percent being special assessed out to the benefitting property owners.

The Third Avenue SE reconstruction remaining portion will also be funded in the same way, as it would have before had it remained under the Urban Road Program, except the cost for the decorative lighting will not be special assessed.

That leaves the estimated $456,100.41 under the streetscape portion to consider. While a portion of that is covered under the amount already earmarked for streetscape efforts, there is a portion that the commission is still unsure of where exactly it will come from.

While commissioners Duane Magnuson and Mike Bishop expressed frustration with the fact that the streetscape portion is coming in with numbers over the original estimate, commissioner Matt Pedersen and Mayor Dave Carlsrud expressed a more optimistic view by focusing on the financial savings as a whole as well as the potential of the project for the downtown area. Commissioner Ross Powell was not present for the meeting.

After much discussion the commission did not make any motion one way or the other, but it was understood that they would continue forward with the bidding process to see what costs were offered. With a competitive market right now, the bids could potentially come in below the estimated costs, reducing the current dilemma.

Jeff Edwards, Bobby Koepplin, and Mary Lee Nielson were also present for the meeting and expressed support for moving forward at this point to at least see what bids become available.

To bring the meeting to a close Mayor Carlsrud states, "If this goes the way that Avis put together, if everything goes as per planned today, we are still within the budget of what the city planned to cover.

"With what is being added by the grant money...If we have a savings to the Urban Road Fund of $828,000 as Avis has figured here and our city cost is $456,000 for the whole ball of wax, then we come out with $370,000 plus of profit. We do the project the way it is and our community is benefited by $370,000 in profit.

He says, "I have been to a number of the conferences, and nationwide what they have done to help stimulate economic development is exactly what we are planning here.

"It is not just the Valley City thing, it is what is working nationwide."

Carlsrud concludes by asking, "Is it going to be better if we do nothing?"