It was a busy night at the last Watertown City Council meeting. The council discussed The Highway 25 project with representatives from MNDOT as well as the 2020 Preliminary Levy and the capital project for updating the website.
The Highway 25 project has been in the works for months, and now that it’s getting closer to ready, MNDOT requires municipal consent from the cities of Watertown and Mayer to shut down the road for construction as well consent for their plans.
The construction has multiple parts, including a resurfacing starting from county road 30 in Mayer all the way to State St., adding in a sidewalk and trail connecting to Luce Line along Hutchinson Rd., and making ADA improvements for the curbs and sidewalks already existing along the highway just to name a few. The trail to Hutchinson was specifically requested by Watertown.
The state requires that MNDOT gets municipal consent simply to make sure that the cities are in agreement and have a full idea of what the construction is going to be, according to Diane Lagenbach, South Area Engineer for MNDOT.
The preliminary costs at this point is $2 million, though Lagenbach made it clear this is not representative of the overall costs as this is a preliminary estimate. MNDOT will be doing a large amount of drainage improvements, including upgrading pipes along Stevens St.
MNDOT has also already started getting the Right of Way acquisitions to start the sidewalk and ADA work. They’ve also been communicating to business owners along the highway in order to establish business routes, according to Lagenbach.
The whole highway won’t be shut down through the project, but instead complete closures will only be a couple blocks at a time, according to Lagenbach. Detours and business access signs will be posted throughout the process in order to help traffic get to their destination. While the detours would be posted throughout the whole process for people who can avoid the highway entirely, Lagenbach acknowledged that locals would quickly find different detours to take if they needed to get a specific area.
Lagenbach also assured the council that the businesses along 25 would still have access, especially since there are convenience businesses along the road and small business orders.
With all this in the record, the council approved the layout for the highway 25 project that will be taking place next year.
The next agenda item was the adoption of the Preliminary Levy for 2020. The city has been working on the budget since July, calculating everything they need for the next year and long-term plans down the road.
According to Shane Fineran, city administrator, Watertown has continued to grow in the market. New construction, expansion, new houses all contribute to the market growth, and the increase in the market value is a result of this growth. The more the property value, the bigger the “pie” as Fineran put it, and the less people have to add to the pie. In an effort to keep taxes even, cities try to be within 2 percent with their tax increase, and this is holding true for the Watertown levy.
At $2,560,000, the levy isn’t set yet. This is the absolute highest it can be since it’s a preliminary levy. From the point that it’s adopted, it can only decrease if the amount changes, not increase.
As staff and the council have been discussing this for the last few months, the council adopted the preliminary levy for 2020. The levy will be submitted to the county offices for approval and will continue to be discussed and finalized over the coming months.
The final item was updating the city’s website. Fineran previously conducted a survey around the community on what they would like to see for the city’s website. One of the biggest changes the community has been asking for has been making the website mobile friendly, as well as ADA compliant and searchable.
The staff is also looking into communication tools, such as email notification or push notification by integrating with social media. They are also seeking to upgrade some video integration on the website as well as better eForms for reserving spaces and making requests.
Staff found a few different platforms, though two became the top-tier for them: Municode and Civic-plus. These two offer everything that the city is looking for: the ADA compliance, mobile friendly, searchable, and everything is saved to an off-site server.
The project would take place quickly, with a payment plan set up from the capital projects fund. The idea would be to complete the website within the year, and the next few years would be maintenance. Year four is important because that’s when most plans end for these kinds of templates, and the city could choose to upgrade their package, or move on with a different company.
To make things easier, the city and staff agreed that the project is long overdue either way, and that they would like to open up ideas for the website to community groups. Lindsay Guetzkow expressed that she’d especially like to see interaction from students and the seniors in the community to ensure that the website is effective for all generations and backgrounds.
As this was not an action item, but simply an update, there was no need for the council to make a motion.