Brainerd City Council: No action taken on South Sixth Street project layout
The time for the Brainerd City Council to make a change to the project layout of the planned South Sixth Street project has come and gone. The council Tuesday night briefly discussed the project, the layout of which the council unanimously gave m...
The time for the Brainerd City Council to make a change to the project layout of the planned South Sixth Street project has come and gone.
The council Tuesday night briefly discussed the project, the layout of which the council unanimously gave municipal consent to in December of 2015. The municipal consent is a binding agreement, city Engineer Jeff Hulsether said.
City Attorney Joe Langel reviewed the situation and has determined there's no way for the council to rescind its previous action granting municipal consent to the project. Statutes determining the project process show the time for the city to oppose the project layout has already passed, he said.
"We're way past all those timelines," Langel said. "The process has moved on ... that ship has sailed."
Jim Hallgren, Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager, previously told the Dispatch the municipal consent granted by the council in December 2015 locked the city into the hybrid three- and five-lane layout. The MnDOT plans are nearly complete, he said, while Brainerd Public Utilities plans are about 90 percent complete.
"We're too far into it to alter anything at this point," Hallgren said. "The time to do that was back in December of 2015."
According to the MnDOT policy on municipal consent, which is based on state statute, a city cannot rescind its approval once it has been given.
"I think we would have to answer this municipal consent hurdle first before we would figure out what that next step needs to be," Hallgren said.
Council President Dave Pritschet opened up an impromptu public forum on the issue, so those in attendance could comment on the project. Ed Shaw, a vocal supporter of a narrower, more pedestrian-friendly layout earlier in the project process, told the council they all know where he stands on the issue. The planned layout would repeat past mistakes the city has made, he said.
"You can do something different," Shaw said. "We don't have to do what's been failing for over 30 years."
Laura Rathe, a member of the walkable bikeable committee, said a wide street design doesn't encourage people to visit downtown Brainerd.
"They encourage people to drive through here," Rathe said. "And I don't think that benefits our community in the long run."
Rathe clarified she was not speaking Tuesday on behalf of the committee. Following public comment and prompted by a question from council member Dave Badeaux, Langel reiterated there's nothing the council can legally do to change the project design. The council took no action on the issue.
The project, spearheaded by MnDOT, was initially planned for this year before being pushed to 2018. While MnDOT is reconstructing the road, BPU will replace sanitary sewer and water pipes underneath the road.
A long public input process, from 2014-15, preceded the council's decision in December 2015 to give municipal consent to the layout. However, discussion this month at a council meeting led the council to revisit the layout issue.
During the public comment period of the Feb. 6 council meeting, two residents spoke in favor of revisiting the approved street layout. Sarah Hayden Shaw, former planning commission member, asked the council to look at a design including three lanes of traffic or less. The slimmer design will save taxpayer money and help make downtown Brainerd an inviting place, she said. Shaw and her husband Ed Shaw recently purchased the former Blue Ox bar and are renovating the building.
Mary Aegerter, member of the walkable bikeable committee, also urged the council to reconsider its previous decision on the project layout.
A Feb. 5 editorial in the Brainerd Dispatch reaffirmed the editorial board's stance from an April 2015 editorial that a three-lane design, as recommended by MnDOT, would make the most sense. City Administrator Jim Thoreen referenced the Feb. 5 editorial at the Feb. 6 meeting and told the council city staff were planning to meet with the editorial board to discuss the issue. City staff, along with Mayor Ed Menk, met with the editorial board on Feb. 15.
At the Feb. 15 planning commission meeting, the commission unanimously adopted a motion to ask the council to consider reevaluating the project design and talk with MnDOT about the process to change the design. The motion included three reasons for looking into changing the design, including changes on the council, additional information provided by the walkable bikeable committee and ownership changes in downtown Brainerd properties.
If the city did want to change the project design at this point, plans would need to be scrapped and a new design would need to be developed, Hallgren said. If the project doesn't go forward next year, it would be reprogrammed into the MnDOT project cycle, he said. The 2021 program is already full, he said, so the project might not go forward until 2022.
"It would probably be numerous years down the road," Hallgren said.
Significant time would be lost, Hallgren said, and it would be safe to say construction couldn't begin next year. Bids for the project are expected to go out in August, with prep work scheduled to begin in the fall.
The layout includes the council's recommendation to provide three- and five-lane sections for the street. The south portion of the street from Joseph Street to Quince Street will be three lanes, and from Quince Street north to Washington Street will be five lanes. For the five-lane section, the outer lanes will mostly serve as auxiliary, or turn lanes.
Menk suggested the three- and five-lane layout as a compromise between a three-lane or a five-lane design during a safety and public works committee meeting in April 2015. He was not mayor at the time.
In other business, the council:
Authorized the internal posting for a records management technician with the Brainerd Police Department, following the resignation of Kelly Ruff effective Feb. 17. A community service officer has shown interest in the position.
Authorized conditional job offers to the top two candidates for two open police officer positions, contingent on the successful completion of pre-employment screening. The two candidates are Bradley Gadbois and Drew Selvestra.
Authorized the police department to spend no more than $5,800 from driving while intoxicated forfeiture funds to purchase and install one new in-squad vehicle video system. This will be the last squad car to convert to the new video recording system. The DWI forfeiture account balance is about $30,444.
Authorized the disposal of a transit bus totaled in a crash on Jan. 12. The city's insurance through the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust reimbursed the city $5,704 for the loss of the bus.
Adopted a resolution granting municipal consent to a County Highway 48 mill and overlay street construction project planned for this summer. Crow Wing County is in charge of the county-state aid highway project.
Received an annual report from Matthew Hill, executive director of the Northland Arboretum. Hill highlighted changes which have taken place at the arboretum, notably the increase in the number of educational opportunities offered this year.
Approved a new contractor license for Northern Lakes Plumbing LLC, Pequot Lakes.
Received a written report from Police Chief Corky McQuiston on the department's activity for the month of January. The department fielded 1,377 calls for service during the month, compared to 1,360 calls for service in January of 2016.
Approved a lawful gambling application to conduct excluded bingo submitted by the Lumberjacks and Jills Club for events on April 12 and Nov. 29 at the American Legion Post 255, 708 Front St.
Approved a lawful gambling application to conduct excluded bingo submitted by St. Andrew's Catholic Church for events April 1 at the church, 1108 Willow St.
Approved a lawful gambling application for an exempt permit submitted by Council 11679 St. Matthias for a raffle April 30 at St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School, 817 Juniper St.
Adopted a resolution in support of the City Street Funding bill, which is currently making its way through the state Legislature in the form of H.F. 934 and S.F. 933. The bill would add a $10 surcharge to license tab fees and on motor vehicle title transfers, with the revenue dedicated to city streets in large and small cities. If enacted, the city of Brainerd would receive about $127,000 annually for city street expenses.