City invests $109K for First St., trail engineering

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     One item on the Monticello City Council's May 15 agenda brought about a lot of discussion and some disagreement.

   City Administrator Russ Farnum worked with the city engineer (Snyder & Associates) to prepare a scope of work and agreement to engineer the reconstruction of E. First Street between Main Street and the Kitty Creek Bridge. This work would also involve a trail extension for Willow Trail along Kitty Creek.

   The council previously discussed this particular street project during a budgetary work session, but thought it wise not to proceed until the new sewer plant project was complete.

   Farnum noted, though, that there has been public sentiment toward wanting a longer trail.

   "There is a strong public outcry to connect the trail to the downtown," he said.

   In his information to the council, Farnum explained: "In order to assure that the (trail) connection is built correctly, it was recommended that the entire section of First Street, from Main to the bridge, be engineered. That way, the pedestrian improvements will be built in the correct location and elevations, and not have to be reconstructed in three years when the street is rebuilt."

   For the scope of this project, the engineering fee is a lump sum of $109,000.

   City Engineer Patrick Schwickerath noted in his notes to the council that there are some items associated with this project that are not typically included in a street project: wetland and stream delineation, geotechnical analysis, preparation for right-of-way purchases, and hydraulic analysis to obtain a flood permit. These items, he added, don't necessarily have to be done at this time, and could save the city approximately $33,000 of the total engineering.

   "We could shave this work out at this point and time," Farnum indicated.

   Farnum did say that within the next few years as a new sewer plant is being built, there will be a lot of heavy construction trucks driving on this portion of E. First Street.

   "But we could build the trail connection between now and next spring," he added.

   "Main Street Monticello wants a walkable community," Mayor Dave Goedken said of a previous conversation he had with the organization.

   AJ Barry with S&A said there would be some tricky aspects to engineering a new road due to working in a floodplain.

   "The road can't be higher in elevation than it is now due to the floodplain," explained Goedken. "The path (trail) can't be higher than the street."

   Council member Tom Yeoman asked Barry is the trail extension could be constructed with a crown to allow water to drain off.

   "We'll need to look at the elevation," Barry offered. "Typically a trail is tipped one way, not crowned. Given the circumstances, a crown is not off the table."

   "Would it be cheaper to do the road now versus three years from now?" asked Yeoman.

   Barry indicated construction costs likely would not go down over time.

   "I feel like we're putting the cart before the horse," expressed Council member Candy Langerman. "Doing the street three years from now would tear up the (new) trail. Doing it all in one shot now is a bad idea. We need to hold off the trail."

   "A lot of people like the trail and want sidewalk by Dollar Fresh," Goedken countered. "A lot of people want a trail to connect to the city. We invested in a trail with no connection to First Street. If we don't have a trail, do we have Dollar Fresh put in a sidewalk?"

   Goedken was in favor of holding off on redoing E. First Street until after the sewer plant project is complete, though.

   Yeoman asked Barry if he felt confident in the idea of redoing First Street three years from now without having the project impact a newly added trail extension.

   "Yes," replied Barry.

   "But that $109,000 is just engineering, not even to put a trail in," expressed Langerman.

   Farnum said the city could pursue grant opportunities, but most grants require engineering plans before you apply.

   "The Parks and Rec survey indicated the public wants a trail," Goedken urged.

   "It's just not wise to do now," reiterated Langerman.

   A 4-1 vote approved moving forward with street and trail engineering; Langerman was opposed. (Council member Wayne Peach was absent.)

   "Where will the money come from?" asked Council member Chris Lux.

   Farnum said the city still has budget amendments needed to move forward, and there is cash on hand.


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