The Two Harbors City Council voted to scrap the proposed 2020 street and alley improvement project and to cease work on the preparation of the final feasibility report.
At the council agenda meeting Monday, Dec. 16, President Robin Glaser addressed a crowd of approximately 25 residents whose houses were included in the proposed project.
"We understand that a number of you are here tonight in response to the proposed 2020 capital improvement project (CIP). The council appreciates your interest in the project," Glaser said. "And after thoughtful consideration and discussion of the facts regarding the low density, sidewalk widths and assessment costs that were presented at last Wednesday night’s meeting, under advisement from the staff and from feedback from the community, the council, with the city administrator, will be informing our engineers to not proceed further on the feasibility report for this project."
The affected residents thanked the council for the decision.
"You kind of took all the wind out of my sails," resident and former councilor Jerry Nordberg said. "But I’m happy the council understood that this ... I don’t want to say boondoggle, but it would have put a hardship on every single person in this room. Some of whom, if it went through, would have had to move."
Assessment estimates caused concern
The proposed 2020 street and alley improvement project was expected to included full pavement replacements or full street reconstructions for the following streets:
Segments recommended for full depth pavement replacement and partial or full curb replacement
14th Avenue, from Eighth to Sixth streets;
15th Avenue, from Eighth to Seventh streets;
Seventh Street, from 14th and 15th avenue;
Sixth Street, from 13th to 14th avenues;
Alley north of 13th Avenue, from Eighth to Sixth streets.
Segment recommended for full reconstruction
Alley north of 14th Avenue from Eighth to Seventh streets full reconstruction.
The estimated cost for the project was $1.56 million, which was close to the CIP recommended guidelines. However, the assessment estimates generated from a partial feasibility report caused concern for the project.
According to the special assessment policy the share of the project costs are 50% for paving the alleys and east-west avenues and 15% for north-south streets.
However, project assessment estimates ended up higher than initially anticipated, especially considering only one of the six projects is a full reconstruction. Cost estimates ranged from $4,400 to $13,200 per lot. Some property owners have multiple lots, causing their assessments to double.
Other factors also increased assessment estimates, including every increasing concrete costs. In fact, for the alley segment north of 13th Avenue, which was a pavement replacement project, the assessments were estimated to be higher than the most expensive alley segment from the 2019 project, which was a full reconstruction.
Moreover, the second alley segment, the alley north of 14th Avenue in 2020, is a full reconstruction and is three times as expensive as the same, most expensive 2019 alley.
A report from the city engineering firm Bolton and Menk cites the reasons for the increased assessments included increasing concrete costs, low population density, and increased pavement width for sidewalks.
The council will not continue with the proposed project and will instead look at “alternate CIP projects for construction in 2020 that are affordable, feasible and practical,” Glaser said.