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Cottage Grove moves ahead with road project despite residents' objections

Homeower Patrick Johnson speaks against a pavement rehabilitation project at the Feb. 20 Cottage Grove City Council meeting. The project includes work on Johnson's 78th Street. The council approved the project. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente1 / 2
A crowd of Cottage Grove residents overflowed the City Hall council chambers during a street pavement rehabilitation project hearing Feb. 20. Many of the residents were opposed to the project. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente2 / 2

The Cottage Grove City Council paved the way for a large residential street project despite some residents' hopes for a dead end to the construction plan.

More than 100 homeowners packed the council chambers for a nearly two-hour hearing Wednesday as council members supported a project first proposed more than a decade ago but shelved, and then postponed again last year amid previous citizen complaints.

The council's 4-1 vote allows planning to proceed on the $7.6 million pavement rehabilitation project this summer on streets in an area bound by 70th Street to the north, 80th Street to the south, Jamaica Avenue to the west and Keats Avenue to the east.

"It's never a good time to have to assess anybody on anything," Mayor Myron Bailey, responding to residents' pleas to hold off. "Unfortunately at some point in time the roads have to be done."

The project includes mill and overlay work or full road replacement on nearly 40 stretches of roadway around Kingston Park. There also are related utility improvements and minor park upgrades planned.

The street work in part of the area first was proposed in 1999, but the council at the time put off the project. The plan returned last year, but the council placed a one-year moratorium on street reconstruction so city officials could review its assessment policy.

That policy used to use a 7-percent interest rate on property owners' street construction assessments that are repaid over a number of years. Now, the council will use an interest rate that is 1.5 percent more than the borrowing rate the city receives to finance the project. Property assessments cover 45 percent of street work; the remaining 55 percent is paid for with general city tax dollars.

Staff urge work

With a large crowd of residents looking on, City Engineer Jennifer Levitt explained the city's pavement rehabilitation program and why certain areas of the project will undergo full pavement replacement while others will receive a new surface layer of pavement. That decision depends on the condition of the roadway, and some street problems are not evident on the pavement surface.

"We want to keep roads in good structural condition," Levitt said, and to maintain infrastructure such as street lights and sewer systems. The street improvements also help to maintain property values, she added.

Answering questions from council member Justin Olsen, both Public Works Director Les Burshten and streets supervisor Gary Orloff said they believe the work is needed. If they are not repaired, water will get into the deteriorating pavement and create potholes.

"What's going to happen come this spring (is) it's going to start blowing up," Orloff said of cracking pavement.

Some homeowners who live in the affected areas were not convinced. They said there is light traffic on some of the side streets and cul-de-sacs, and that people have tight household budgets and cannot afford to pay for the street work.

"The roads do not need to be replaced," said Jane Merle, who lives on Jenner Lane. "Some touched up? Yes. Replaced? No."

Assessment objections

Residents also objected to the city's process of moving forward with the project before determining the actual assessments to homeowners. City officials said that long-used policy is standard in many cities. They also said they don't even have a bid yet to determine the actual project cost and subsequent assessment rates. They are using an engineer's estimate.

Roughly 125 residents submitted written objections to the city's plan to assess property owners for the work, but city officials said that specific opposition was premature. The council's decision Wednesday only was to move forward with the project. The assessments would be decided at the end of the project, likely in October of this year.

The written objections represented roughly 17 percent of the 735 parcels set to be assessed for the work.

Levitt and City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said that is in line with the amount of opposition expressed by residents in past street repair projects, which went forward as planned.

Bailey, the mayor, is the only member of the council who lives in the area to be repaired this summer. He faces a $4,100 assessment on his property -- the highest estimated assessment rate - but said he still believes the roads need to be fixed.

"Every pavement management area has people that are concerned," Bailey said.

Council member Dave Thiede supported the project but said he would like city staff to look for ways to reduce the cost to people in the $4,100 assessment area. The estimated assessments range from $1,600 to $4,100.

Council member Derrick Lehrke was the lone vote against the bill. Lehrke claimed he had been in support of the project until he started hearing from residents opposed to it leading up to the hearing. Project opponents' presence at the council meeting also swayed him, he said.

Lehrke said not one person contacted him to express support for the project.

"You need to be involved whether you're in favor of it or not," he said.

The city's next step is to accept bids on the project. If a bid is selected, construction would begin in the spring.

Residents said they would like to know when streets will be torn up over the summer.

Levitt said they plan to break up the construction into zones. Also, roads nearest Kingston Park will not be torn up during Strawberry Fest in June.

Project areas

Here are the areas included in a planned Cottage Grove street pavement rehabilitation project for this summer:

District C1:

-- 75th Street from Jamaica Avenue to Indian Boulevard

-- Jeffery Avenue loop from 75th Street to 75th Street

-- Jasmine Avenue from 75th Street to 78th Street

-- Jasmine Avenue from Jasmine Avenue to cul-de-sac south of 75th Street

-- Jasmine Avenue from Jasmine Avenue to cul-de-sac, north of Janero Avenue

-- Jeffery Avenue from 75th Street to 80th Street

-- Jeffery Avenue from Jeffery Avenue to cul-de-sac south of Jensen Avenue

-- Jeffery Court from Jeffery Avenue to cul-de-sac

-- Jensen Avenue loop from Jeffery Avenue to Jeffery Avenue

-- Janero Avenue from Jeffery Avenue to 79th Street

-- Janero Court from Janero Avenue to cul-de-sac

-- 78th Street from Janero Avenue to Jeffery Avenue

-- 78th Street Court from 78th Street to cul-de-sac

-- 79th Street from Janero Avenue to Jeffery Avenue

District C2:

-- Indian Boulevard from Jamaica Avenue to Keats Avenue

-- Janero Avenue from Indian Boulevard to Jenner Lane

-- Jenner Lane loop from Janero Avenue to Janero Avenue

-- Jenner Alcove from Jenner Lane to cul-de-sac

-- Jenner Bay from Jenner Lane to cul-de-sac

-- Jenner Circle from Jenner Lane to cul-de-sac

-- 73rd Street from Janero Avenue to Jensen Avenue

-- Jensen Avenue from 70th Street to Indian Boulevard

-- 71st Street from Jenner Lane to Jewel Avenue

-- 71st Street Bay from 71st Street to cul-de-sac

-- 72nd Street from Jensen Avenue to Jocelyn Avenue

-- Indian Boulevard cul-de-sac (9100's) from Indian Boulevard to cul-de-sac

-- Indian Boulevard Court from Indian Boulevard to cul-de-sac

-- Jewel Avenue from Indian Boulevard to 71st Street

-- Jocelyn Avenue from Indian Boulevard to Joliet Avenue

-- Jocelyn Place from Jocelyn Avenue to cul-de-sac

-- Jocelyn Bay from Jocelyn Avenue to cul-de-sac

-- Jocelyn Alcove northwest from Jocelyn Avenue to cul-de-sac

-- Jocelyn Alcove southeast from Jocelyn Avenue to cul-de-sac.

-- 72nd Street from Jocelyn Avenue to Joliet Avenue

-- Joliet Avenue from 70th Street to Indian Boulevard

-- 72nd Street So. from Joliet Avenue to Jonathan Avenue

-- Juliet Circle from Joliet Avenue to cul-de-sac

-- Indian Boulevard cul-de-sac (9600's) from Indian Boulevard to cul-de-sac

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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