The Forest Lake City Council’s May 28 meeting clipped along at a lively pace. Among other actions, the council signed off on the next steps of a couple of in-progress developments, awarded a contract for its upcoming crack filling and seal coat project, and OK’d an agreement with Big River Consulting Group to work with the council on strategic planning.
However, the body also made time to take a look at its strategy for the 2020 Minnesota legislative session.
At the time of the meeting, the special session that gave Minnesota its biennial budget was less than a week in the rearview mirror, but the deadline for cities to submit funding requests for the state’s 2020 bonding bill was fast approaching, set for June 14. In an attempt to better position Forest Lake’s request or requests for success, City Engineer Ryan Goodman explained, city staff recommended meeting with District 39 Sen. Karin Housley and District 39A Rep. Bob Dettmer before any request was submitted to see what kinds of projects the pair would be enthusiastic about.
“We’re trying to be different here and do a lot of upfront work to be as competitive as possible,” Goodman said.
Goodman and City Administrator Patrick Casey said the approach will hopefully optimize the bonding request or requests.
“If you do not have their support, you will not get anything,” Goodman said, referring to local representatives and senators.
Casey and Goodman suggested four different projects to discuss with Housley and Dettmer and asked council members for feedback.
The first project is the design and construction of road and utility improvements to create an adequate business or industrial park on city-owned Headwaters property (with a rough estimated cost of $3.5 million).
The second project is the reconstruction of 10 sewer lift stations and accompanying forcemains outside of the immediate scope of the city’s concluding lift station improvements (estimated to cost $4 million, though the city could request less money and make up the difference with a local match).
The third project is the reconstruction of North Shore Trail, with the addition of a pedestrian trail between Greenway Avenue North and 230th Street North (estimated to cost $4.5 million).
The fourth project is the reconstruction of Harrow Avenue North, with the addition of a pedestrian trail between State Highway 97 and 208th Street North (estimated to cost $1.7 million).
Staff and council members weighed the various benefits of the potential requests during the discussion. Casey said wastewater projects are “usually pretty attractive” infrastructure projects to people putting together the bonding bill, and he noted that adding a pedestrian walkway to North Shore Trail would be a big safety improvement.
“[Currently,] people like to walk in the middle of the street,” he said.
Mayor Mara Bain thought the North Shore Trail project was a good “two-for-one,” improving the condition of the road and keeping pedestrians safe.
“Everyone wants more and better trails, and it’s a great way to feature our lake,” she said.
Councilwoman Kathy Bystrom was interested in the Harrow project, hoping it could be integrated with potential Minnesota Department of Transportation work to increase safety at the intersection of Harrow and Highway 97. She and Councilman Sam Husnik also wanted to consider requesting funds to improve the intersection of 97 and Goodview Avenue, an area of concern for the council for the last several years. That project is already on the city’s schedule, with a reconstruction set for next summer, but bonding funds could fund the future addition of a pedestrian bridge to the project.
Ultimately, the council expressed openness to discussing all of the proposals, including the Goodview/97 intersection, with Housley and Dettmer.