Baxter City Council pulls residential roads from project
Projects included in the bid were Clearwater Road, Cedar Scenic Road and Oakwood Drive with Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place as an added project. Plans are for the work to begin this summer.
BAXTER — A Clearwater Road project in Baxter will move forward without the side streets included as an alternate with the bid.
The Baxter City Council met before more than 30 people to talk about the street projects with affected residents Thursday, May 11, with the weekend to consider a decision before meeting Tuesday. This time there were a handful of people in attendance, mostly for other issues or present as the city’s consulting engineers.
On one hand the council had a bid that came in below the estimate, creating a cost savings and a benefit of doing several streets in the Clearwater Road area at the same time. On the other hand, residents asked for more time to save for the project, questioned the need for the work at this time, stated they paid for road improvements about 20 years ago and feel it is unfair to be assessed twice. Residents signed petitions against the project, with some saying the value of their property would not increase to match the assessment of about $8,000.
The preliminary estimate for the project was $5,432,549. The final estimate came in lower at $4,994,349. Assessments to property owners would bring in 38% percent of the project with 62% paid with other sources. Assessments have a 12-year term at an estimated 8% interest. Projects included in the bid were Clearwater Road, Cedar Scenic Road and Oakwood Drive with Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place as an added project. Plans are for the work to begin this summer.
The council had four choices to consider Tuesday:
Option A: Go ahead with the entire project as proposed to reconstruct the road and trail on Clearwater Road from Inglewood Drive to Edgewood Drive. The trail is being constructed on the wooded side of the road with trees removed because the city owned that property eliminating the need to buy land and pedestrians and children on bikes wouldn’t need to cross the road to stay on the trail.
The project included: roadway reconstruction on Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place, road and trail reconstruction on Cedar Scenic Road; road reconstruction on Oakwood Drive; and railroad quiet zone improvements from Timberwood Drive to Cypress Drive.
Option B: Everything in option A minus Oakwood Drive. With continuing development along Oakwood Drive, early discussion included pulling this segment out until truck traffic for construction supplies were done.
Option C: Everything in option A minus Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place.
Option D: The base bid of Clearwater Road, Cedar Scenic Road and the railroad quiet zone improvements.
The May 11 council session was a lively one. People were signing petitions. Multiple people spoke from the podium. Other residents continued to contribute from their audience chairs. Questions were asked and answered. Issues raised and rebutted. A lengthy discussion on twin homes and whether a townhome association still existed or was lost in translation after the bank resold individual properties from the Great Recession was sent for legal review. In comparison, Tuesday’s council session was punctuated by stretches of silence.
After one such pause, Council member Zach Tabatt, who missed the May 11 session, asked for opinions noting he could see both waiting on portions of the project and noted inflation in regard to future costs.
Council member Jeff Phillips said it may be good to wait on Oakwood while development was ongoing and heavy truck traffic was using the existing road. Mayor Darrel Olson said that was an early consideration on Oakwood. As for Forest and Fox, Olson said with the bids came in $1,500 less on assessments.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see that again,” Olson said noting for some people a $1,500 reduction wouldn’t make a big difference in an assessment that is still bad either way, but he wondered again if they were doing a disservice to people in the long run by not doing these projects given the favorable bids.
“I could go either way on that,” Olson said. “I realize what everybody’s saying, when it comes to road projects there’s never a good time.”
Council member Mark Cross said he was in favor of the base bid.
“It’s based on public comment,” he said. “It’s based on the condition of the road.”
Cross said the road can be maintained for a few years.
Council member Connie Lyscio agreed.
“For me a lot of it was public comment,” Lyscio said. “I think one that really stuck with me was, ‘We live on the road, let us come to you in a year or two, OK it’s time, we can’t drive and can’t live on this road anymore.’”
Lyscio said because the pleas were so passionate at the May 11 meeting it was something she lost sleep over.
Tabatt noted costs could jump 15% by the time the road is even worse but has to be done. Cross said no one has a crystal ball. He said estimates are tightening up and it feels as though prices are solidifying as opposed to continuing the 30% increases. Cross said there is no way to know if something will happen in the world to change things but he has a hard time throwing away good pavement if it's got three to five years left in it.
What Baxter’s residents will accept for road conditions is something the council needs to talk about. With a pavement rating system of 1-10, the city goal is currently to keep roads at a rating of six or seven. Cross said maybe residents are willing to have roads to a quality rating of five. For Phillips, part of the discussion, if not with this project, may be what roads are repaired.
“Do we let each individual street who might face the assessment decide when their road is repaired? I don't know. I don't necessarily think that's the right answer. I know the public opinions last week were definitely impassioned,” Phillips said. “But if, say for example, we had a public road construction fund a lot of the same people would be clamoring to the City Council meeting to have their road repaired. … It’s obviously a personal issue for all of them because it’s hitting their pocketbook and I think that’s very important.
“But I don’t know, as a citywide, that each road should be decided by the specific residents on that road. Their voice matters, of course.”
Phillips said if he were facing an assessment, he would want to have a voice and at least be heard. Because the city engineers said the streets have three to five years of reasonable life left in the pavement, he was in favor of pulling those out and going with the base bid.
The City Council voted unanimously for Option D with the base bid, pulling Oakwood, Forest Drive, Fox Road and Fox Place from the project.
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @DispatchBizBuzz.