The city of St. Maries is set to open bids for utility improvements ahead of the Railroad Avenue rehabilitation project later this month.
With that in mind, city engineer Jim Roletto, of HMH Engineering, pressed project representatives for updates Monday night at the regular council meeting, Sept. 14.
“I think what we want to know is how are we moving forward,” Mr. Roletto said. “We all need to be on the same page about where we’re going when we leave here tonight. Obviously, we’re getting nervous because we are about to open bids to put new water and sewer lines underneath the roadway in a week or two and we don’t want to tear the road up and then the project sees another delay.”
Daniel Jones, of HDR Engineering, and Dan Coonce, of LHTAC (Local Highway Technical Assistance Council), met with the council via phone.
Since its inception the project has seen several delays and changes to the scope of work. The city first received the grant totaling $2.65 million in 2013 for the project. The city’s match of $196,345 will be partially met with a second grant the city was awarded totaling $100,000.
Mr. Jones said the firm was awaiting approval from the council to release an additional $27,000 in funds for right-of-way work. Since the scope of the project changed from complete reconstruction to rehabilitation so did the needed number of parcels and easements. The project is looking at 13 acquisitions as well as 11 easements. Property use agreements will also need to be pursued for work outside of the right-of-way reach that will only be temporary.
“What I want you to do is put a spreadsheet together so I can put it in the mayor’s office so that we can track you through as you get those completed,” Mr. Roletto said, adding the city’s attorney, Mariah Dunham, was ready to go to work on those.
The council voted unanimously to release the additional funds, which were part of the original agreement. Additional funds may be needed as well to include more parcels in the future.
“At this point, we’re invested and so we are going to have to grin and bear it,” Mr. Roletto said.
The council voted 4-2 to approve a measure to install a four-way stop at the intersection of Railroad Avenue and 10th Street. Steve Dorendorf and Randy Willard were the dissenting votes. The other option presented was turn lanes, which would cut into the parking of nearby businesses including 10th Street Lumber.
Council Ed Spooner said he did not want to see the city adversely affect parking at 10th Street Lumber by putting in the turn lanes.
“When we did the bridge project we put a four-way stop there and it worked well according to the business,” Mr. Spooner said. “A four-way stop is what (owner) Pat (Suchoski) would like to see and would prefer.”
Mr. Roletto said there were pros and cons to either a turn lane or a four-way stop. A four-way stop would allow for more safety for pedestrians as all traffic would be coming to a stop. One drawback of the four-way stop mentioned at the meeting was the potential for traffic on all sides to back up during hours of heavy use.
“I’m not much for the turn lane,” Mr. Dorendorf said. “It was brought up late and way after the fact. No one knew about it. I have mixed feelings about the four-way stop. I don’t know if we need to change it from what it is now.”
Councilmen Doug Ryan and Laci Hanson echoed similar thoughts that a four-way stop would provide safety for children, pedestrians, bicyclists and more. Randy Saunders said he didn’t have “strong feelings” either way.
Mr. Roletto said the council needed to pursue one option for the project to move forward. The council settled on a four-way stop. He said if it doesn’t work out how the council likes they can always go back and change it as the entire intersection falls within the city’s right-of-way.
Mr. Coonce said the goal is to go to bid with the project in March or April with a construction window of next summer. He said a lot of it will depend on the ability to secure right-of-way access.
It was also advised the city’s decision to pursue the four-way stop would involve a bit of quick redesign as well. However, the design study is nearly finished and awaiting final action by Mr. Jones, Mr. Roletto said.
Mr. Roletto thanked the council for the decisions, which he said would now allow the project to continue. He said he would be in constant touch with Mr. Jones and Mr. Coonce as needed.
“Prior to this, Daniel (Jones) won’t say this but I will. It was not moving,” Mr. Roletto said.