As Anoka prepares to get an early start on planning for a 2015 street renewal project, city leaders expressed concern about how the city’s roads are going to fare during this difficult winter.

Some of worst roads in the city aren’t even close to coming up for reconstruction in the city’s long-term plan, said Councilmember Jeff Weaver.

“We’ve got Thurston falling apart in front of our eyes every day,” Weaver said. “How do we get that into the program? I don’t think it’s going to be able to be patched, it’s that bad.”

Public Services Director and City Engineer Greg Lee agreed the condition of Thurston Avenue, home to high traffic counts and heavy semi-truck traffic, needs immediate attention.

“We’re considering this almost as an emergency situation,” Lee said.

City staff will likely propose to take money from this summer’s sealcoating budget and redirect it to Thurston Avenue, and the streets that were slated for sealcoating will have to hold off until next year, Lee told the council.

Thurston qualifies as a Municipal State Aid street, which provides funding through the state’s gas tax for local road improvements, but Lee said Anoka won’t receive reimbursement for this particular project until 2016. MSA funds were allotted to the East Main Street reconstruction through 2015. Anoka has typically been receiving just under $590,000 each year in gas tax funding.

Councilmember Mark Freeburg also expressed concerns that Fifth Avenue north of Main Street is falling apart.

“This probably will be the toughest winter we’ve seen in a number of years,” Lee said. “This will be a very difficult spring in terms of taking care of our streets.”

And it will be problem that will certainly not be unique to Anoka.

Lee explained the frost is extremely deep this year, already six to seven feet down.

“What that means is there’s just going to be that much more damage to our streets as the frost comes out,” he said.

While the council worries about keeping the city’s roads in good shape, Lee said in the past 14 years of the street renewal program, one-third of Anoka’s streets have been rehabilitated.

“If we continue at that pace, we should have no problem keeping up with our deteriorating streets,” Lee said. “If you look at the city of Anoka compared with most other cities, we’re way ahead of most other cities, especially with our infrastructure.”

But Freeburg disagreed that the city is keeping up and questioned how long Anoka will be able to continue fixing its roads with minimal costs being assessed to the taxpayer.

Currently, Anoka assesses just under 25 percent of the project cost for a total street renewal (including a new street and new underlying utilities) to the property owner. But home and business owners don’t pay for improvements like street resurfacing or sealcoating.

Finance Director Lori Yager said the city could fall behind without assessing property owners for those surface improvements.

For the past several years, Anoka has used balances from the electric utility fund to pad its street surface improvement program.

“... Those funds aren’t going to go away, but we have other uses for those electric utility revenues,” Yager said.

Slabtown

Anoka is looking at adding an extra street renewal project in 2015, concentrating on the Slabtown neighborhood.

The city council unanimously agreed to order a feasibility study on the project.

Lee said typically this doesn’t happen until the fall before a project is slated to start the next year. But because the work in Slabtown presents some unique issues, they wanted to get a head start.

“We wanted to start this project a little earlier since this is a new neighborhood and there’s issues we need to work through,” Lee said.

This includes the fact that there are alleyways in the neighborhood and that the city wants to take a closer look at State Avenue and whether there is a need for it in the future.

The Greens of Anoka redevelopment plan also factors into the street renewal project, as there is a call for a new golf maintenance facility at the north end of State Street.

The Greens of Anoka study that outlines a redevelopment strategy around Green Haven Golf Course will influence the design and layout of those streets, particularly State Avenue on the south end and Pleasant Street, currently under county jurisdiction east of Ferry Street, Lee said.

A neighborhood meeting will be held to gather feedback.

“By the time we get to final plans and specifications, we will work though all of those things,” Lee said.

2014 Street Renewal

The council Feb. 18 also approved plans and specifications for the 2014 street renewal project .

Up for utility replacement and total road reconstruction are Tenth Avenue from Jefferson Street to East Main Street and Cross and Madison streets from Ninth Avenue to the eastern city limit.

Lee said the project is estimated to cost $1.7 million.

Amid concerns over last year’s street renewal project that did not get done on time, the city is making changes to the street construction contracts going forward.

Instead of just having a start date and a completion date, Lee said they will also have an intermediate completion schedule. Certain portions of the project will need to be completed by specific dates through the summer.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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