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'169' project moving ahead

November 27, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

BLUE EARTH - A project planned for many years in Blue Earth will finally move forward next year, but business owners who face assessments voiced concerns Monday.

The Highway 169 reconstruction will involve installation of three roundabouts, as well as infrastructure repairs for water mains, sanitary sewer, storm sewer mains and catch basins. The project stretches from the north end of the railroad overpass to just south of Interstate 90.

"This has been talked about for several years," said Wes Brown, city engineer. "The project will go to bid in February or March, then start as soon as possible. The plan is to have it done by the end of 2013, or possibly by spring of 2014."

The cost is estimated at a hefty $9 million, with nearly half covered by state and federal aid. For the rest, funds will come from bonding, utility funds, county coffers and assessments.

Most of the concerns expressed at the hearing Monday involved the assessments. Several attendees had only recently learned they would be assessed for the project. However, the city passed a policy change for assessments in 2009. It established that all road projects - city, county or state - will be assessed based on an average of the past three years of street projects.

But because the project discussion had been going on for so long, some citizens were still under the belief that the project was fully covered by the state.

"We were just able to get the estimates about three weeks ago," said Blue Earth City Administrator Kathy Bailey. "We are giving the maximum time we can to help cushion the impact."

The silver lining is that property owners are only being assessed on the city's portion of the project for water main construction, sanitary sewer construction and street construction, not on the total cost. Assessments are estimated at a total of $622,000, a small fraction of the city's $5.6 million share.

Water and sewer mains will be covered by rates, along with the storm sewers.

"The important part of this is to get the funding from the state," said Mayor Rob Hammond. "We started this back in the 1990s, under the belief that we would get funds. But the state pushed this project back two or three times. If we don't take this, then the entire project is up to us, the whole $9 million. And there are plenty of areas that will be happy to take the state money if we don't."



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