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Baxter City Council: Seeks to increase notice for street projects

BAXTER--For Baxter residents, a pavement management plan is causing them to question the choice of city streets in good condition for maintenance work. For city officials, it's about starting a plan with a goal of extending pavement life and redu...

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Baxter City Hall

BAXTER-For Baxter residents, a pavement management plan is causing them to question the choice of city streets in good condition for maintenance work. For city officials, it's about starting a plan with a goal of extending pavement life and reducing cost.

Tuesday both of those viewpoints came together again in a Baxter City Council work session.

About 25 people attended the council session, first listening to an overview and then peppering engineers and the council with questions. A number stayed well after the nearly hour-and-a-half meeting ended. Tuesday's meeting was an extension of discussions earlier this month when the city met with residents, who had many questions on why the project was going forward and why they didn't learn of it earlier.

The city council has been talking about the maintenance plan for years. But it's not uncommon for the plan to really take notice when the street earmarked for work arrives at individual doorsteps. Faced with a new issue of aging streets, the city began looking at options to pay for maintenance. Until the new program was implemented last year, Baxter's street maintenance was crack sealing. While it served the city for decades, age and wear and tear were an obvious challenge facing the city budget. The franchise fee was implemented as a way to help offset the maintenance costs and include tax-exempt properties.

The road thus far

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In July of 2013, Bolton & Menk submitted a comprehensive pavement management plan to the city. City streets were rated using core samples and ground-penetrating radar. The rating comes from a Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating or PASER system with 10 being pavement in excellent condition.

At the time, the city had 81.2 miles of streets with 34.8 miles or nearly 43 percent with a PASER rating of five and six and 38.8 miles or 47.8 percent rated between seven and eight. Streets in the seven and eight category typically need crack rout and seal coating or patching. A road in the five and six rating condition may need a pavement overlay. A road with a rating of one may be 25 years old and likely for a recommendation for a full reconstruction. The report found many streets have not deteriorated to a point where complete reconstruction is required.

Baxter implemented the program last year.

Public Works Director Trevor Walter noted they learned some things. Instead of picking streets throughout the city, they learned they would save money by bunching projects closer together. So they divided the city into seven sections. Streets still in good shape were good candidates for work aimed at extending pavement life. They found doing too many streets in a concentrated area causes too much of a burden on residents still trying to negotiate their lives through construction congestion.

The city is on a seven-year rotation for seal coating in its seven sections.

The proposed summer street projects

The compilation of street projects is expected to cost about $648,525, the exact price won't be known until bids are returned.

For the proposed 2017 project, the residential streets listed for repaving of existing streets include Oak Street, Marohn Road, Mountain Ash Drive, Wedgewood Drive and Lakewood Lane.

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The commercial streets proposed for work include Goedderz Road and Dogwood Drive for full-depth reclamation, or recycling the existing street and putting a new pavement on top. In the commercial area, broken or cracked concrete curb and gutter would also be replaced.

Oak Street, for example, has a PASER rating of six. Aric Welch, the city's consulting engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting, provided the overview of the project. Mike Rardin, Bolton & Menk, also explained the seal-coating process and how pavement fails.

Welch cited research noting a street typically deteriorates 40 percent during the first 75 percent of its life-before age 20-and then deteriorates by 40 percent during the next 12 percent. Welch used a graph with a line marking the first gradual decline in pavement that picked up speed to a steep drop-off once the pavement grew near and then passed the 75 percent mark. By 25 years of age, the street dropped to very poor or failed pavement.

Residents questioned why Oak Street was included as it is not in section seven, in the city's southwest side, but is north of Highway 210. Officials noted Oak Street was added, and is in the next rotation area, in order to make the project the right size-not too small or large-to be attractive to bidders. Some suggested seal coating instead of the more expensive mill and overlay grinding off 1.5 inches and putting down 2 inches of new pavement, which is less costly than a full depth reclamation or a full street reconstruction.

Justin Barrick, Oak Street resident, questioned the city's use of one street example of Donald Street-seal coated in 2014 at age 26 and now deteriorating-as a reason why older streets can't be seal coated. The streets on the summer list were constructed from 1991 to 1998. Barrick, who was outspoken at a meeting earlier this month, thanked the council for hosting this additional session and said a lot of the information was valuable. One man said most of the people were there because of the cost and how it affected them personally. He said he's heard the city referred to as taxter instead of Baxter, but he just wanted to make sure he received a value from the project.

"I don't want to spend the money either," another man said. "But it's got to get done."

A woman asked what their options were if the city moved forward. Council member Todd Holman said they have options to appeal the assessment should the city move forward with the project. Council member Quinn Nystrom asked staff what would happen if a street like Oak Street was pushed back a year. Welch said it's too late in the process to substitute another street into the project.

Council member Mark Cross said if residents came in with a 100 percent petition asking to have their street removed from the list, he'd be hard pressed to vote for it.

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"But it will cost you more money later," Cross said. "We are just trying to be as fiscally as responsible as possible. ... We did this program to be good stewards of your money because roads cost a lot of money."

Council member Steve Barrows was absent.

Mayor Darrel Olson said crack sealing worked, but roads are now 25 years old and tired and seal coating the older roads is not worth the expense for the benefit. Olson said he'd listen if residents wanted to delay on street work but they'd be taking a chance and the street condition is going to get worse and it's going to get there faster.

Why not use the local option sales tax?

Voters approved extending the local option sales tax until Dec. 31, 2037, after considering a specific ballot question. It was not designed to help fund regular street maintenance. The sales tax required both voter and Legislative approval. With the approval from both, the city of Baxter extended the sales tax of one-half of 1 percent and charge a motor vehicle excise tax of $20 per vehicle.

With the local tax, $32 million will help finance sewer, water and safety projects for Baxter. The Legislature wanted a regional component in order to give the city the option for the local tax. Extending water and sewer to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport for operations and fire protection provided the regional project. To that end, $8 million of the local option sales tax was earmarked to fund airport improvements.

What's next

The council will meet June 6 and could approve plans and specifications for bids. If that happens, a bid opening is expected July 12. Residents should receive letters with individual information on their actual assessments about the week of July 20. An assessment hearing would be scheduled Aug. 10. Following this timeline, the earliest for construction to begin would be the end of August with completion in September.

So far residents have an engineer's estimated assessment but the true numbers won't be known until the bids come in. Last year, bids came in lower than the engineer's estimate.

Other street projects in the works include Excelsior Road yet this year.

Memorywood Drive and College Road are slated for work in 2018.

Information, including the feasibility report with data including where core samples were taken, can be found at www.baxtermn.gov/ the city's website.

City working on giving residents longer notice

Several residents, one a new homeowner, questioned why there wasn't a longer notice period before being shocked to learn they could have a $3,500 assessment looming. Legally, the city has to provide a couple of weeks for notice. The city is looking to improve notification. New administrator Brad Chapulis said there should be a longer notice. The initial goal is to give residents eight months notice for upcoming projects and then they'd like at least two years out to give residents time to plan. Olson said complicating factors came in being without a city administrator for a year with development picking up and the city was stretched too thin.

Cypress Drive update

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the omnibus bill Tuesday night. The bill provides $6 million to Baxter for the Cypress Drive project, which is designed to connect Cypress Drive across the BNSF railroad tracks and across Highway 210 with a roundabout proposed near Super One Foods. The proposed project is expected to be about $15 million. The city is still in talks with BNSF for the crossing. An open house to talk about the project is planned June 12.

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