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Hold on, Brainerd city leaders talk future of roads and maintenance

The future of road projects in Brainerd may get a little bumpy.

With little funds available and a slew of projects to address, city officials are now discussing their next moves.

At a special city of Brainerd Safety and Public Works Committee meeting late last week, the group discussed the five-year plan for road projects in the city.

The committee will discuss the road plan again at its meeting tonight, before making a recommendation to the full council.

Leaving the meeting last week, the group did informally identify priority roads, as well as generally agree that no one wanted to bond for road projects next year in effort to not add to the city's debt.

Assistant city engineer Jesse Freihammer presented the group with what road work needed to be done, and just how critical that work was.

One of the first issues is seal coating, which is recommended for roads within 10 years of being re-done.

The city is behind in seal coating its newer roads, said city engineer Jeff Hulsether.

In the last 10 years, about half of the re-done roads have been seal coated. That leaves almost eight miles of roads waiting to be seal coated.

"The bottom line is there are a lot of miles of new roads that we have to catch up on," he said.

Freihammer added that if the city doesn't seal coat those roads soon, it will affect the life of the roads.

But doing that would come at a cost: About $208,800 a year for the next five years.

Freihammer continued that the Engineering Department would like to dedicate $25,000 each year to crack sealing.

The department officials would also like to address the worst off roads first, with a goal of replacing about 1.6 miles a year.

By the end of the five years, the costs would break down into these categories:

• Preventative maintenance: $1.169 million

• Total reconstructions: $2.908 million

• Resurfacing: $1.587 million

• Sanitary: $1.118 million

• Storm: $421,350

• Other: $9.187 million (Most of this comes from the airport utility extension.)

It's the hefty price tag that committee members weren't ready to hand off to residents.

Committee member Mary Koep said she wouldn't support bonding until the city gets a handle on its debt "that is crippling this city."

Instead of bonding, the city should take the money available and divide it between funds, concentrating on maintenance, she said.

"We should seal coat and crack seal, where you get quite the bang for your buck," she said.

The exception would be 28th Street, since the city already "promised" that project.

Committee member Gary Scheeler questioned if that plan was "kicking the can down the road" for inevitable projects that will only get more expensive as time passes.

Koep said waiting two or three years wouldn't mean "that much more damage" for the roads.

"I agree that it would be nice to do a lot of this work," she said. "But we need to consider the whole budget picture. My vote is to take whatever money we have without bonding or raising fees and use that for work."

The construction fund gets $325,000 in permanent improvement levy revenue each year.

After maintenance, there's only about $30,000 left in the fund to work with, Freihammer said.

Council president Dale Parks said the city is caught in a tough place, facing projects that must be done and not enough money to fund them.

Scheeler agreed the city should limit the street projects to 28th Street, along with County Road 45 sewer work at the same time county officials re-do the road next year.

The third road project would be Jackson street, if there are still funds and if the city of Baxter plans to do the project as well.

In 2016, the biggest priority roads, the committee agreed, were E Street, Brook Street and 10th Street Southeast.

At a future meeting, the committee will discuss the idea of possibly raising fees to help fund road projects.

At tonight's meeting, the committee will again talk about the road projects before making a recommendation to the full council.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

Jessie Perrine
Jessie covers the Brainerd City Council and the Brainerd School Board. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Jessie attended Winona State University, where she majored in journalism with a minor in women and gender studies. She worked at the Winona Daily News, Tomah Journal and the La Crosse Tribune before starting at the Dispatch in 2012.
(218) 855-5859
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