2012-07-26 / Front Page

West side to receive $99K worth of sidewalks

Council approves financing from general, street funds

MANISTIQUE – A number of sidewalks will be replaced on the west side of Manistique as part of the ongoing infrastructure project, though not originally planned. The Manistique City Council voted to pay the extra $99,225 for the sidewalks during Monday’s meeting.

The sidewalks, on north and south First, Second, Third, and Fourth streets, will not be covered by the USDA Rural Development grant currently paying for the infrastructure project. However, the sidewalks will be completed during the project, and by the same contractor, Hebert Construction, currently working on the west side, according to City Manager Sheila Aldrich.

“The only sidewalks that were going to be replaced were the sidewalks where the contractor had to take them up to put in the laterals or that they drilled on them and they became broken. The rest of the sidewalks were going to remain the way that they were,” she explained. “The problem that we have been running into is that the sidewalks, ideally, need to tip toward the street, in order to get rid of the water toward the street. A lot of the sidewalk is tipping toward the homeowner, and so when they’re pulling out what they’re going to replace … they tip it toward the street; it’s adverse to what’s there already.”

In light of this problem, the engineer for the infrastructure project, Coleman Engineering, asked Aldrich if it would be possible for the city to replace the sidewalks, ensuring an even surface for pedestrians.

“They asked if there was any way the city could replace the sidewalks that they can’t make part of this project,” she said. “There’s just no way they can be made part of the Rural Development project.”

A cost estimate for the sidewalks put the project at an estimated $99,225. Financing for the project was approached from several areas, Aldrich explained, the first being the DDA (Downtown Development Authority). First

Street is the only west side street within the boundaries of the DDA district, therefore, DDA money can be used for its projects or upkeep, she said.

Within the DDA’s most recent budget, she noted money that had been allocated for sidewalks and parking lot maintenance hadn’t been used – a potential funding source for the First Street sidewalk.

“That would take care of $19,470 of it, which would leave us with about $79,000 to come up with,” she said.

The rest of the money could come from the city’s general, major and local street funds.

“If we took $26,585 from each one, then it wouldn’t leave us in jeopardy, going into next year,” she said.

According to Aldrich, the current street fund balances are higher than expected due to recent mild winters. In the major street fund, a balance between $60,000 and $90,000 is generally the status quo. At the end of June, the fund had a balance of $200,000. Anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 is a comfortable balance in the local street fund, she said, and that currently has a $92,000 balance.

“I don’t believe in the 11 and a half years that I’ve been here that you folks have ever taken anything from the fund balance of the general fund; we’ve always added a little bit every year to it,” she said. “We have about a $400,000 fund balance in the general fund.”

Council member Dan Evonich questioned why, if the DDA had money they hadn’t used, why wasn’t that applied to the back taxes owed by Manistique Papers – one of the direct influences on a recent hike in residents’ water and sewer rates. Aldrich answered that the money is sitting as a receivable right now, and not actually in hand.

“If we see that the DDA has an excess when they get to the end of the year, council could certainly go put it toward the sewer fund,” she said.

Council member Rick Hollister expressed his concern that the west side would be overlooked if the city decided not to install the new sidewalks.

“My feeling is, a lot of the time, there’s a perception the west side gets slighted on projects,” he said. “I just think, that if we can do this, and we have the money right now, I think we should do it. It benefits everybody.”

Mayor David Peterson agreed, noting that the east side will be receiving numerous new sidewalks as part of a “Safe Routes to School” grant.

“This will, maybe, even things out a little bit,” he said. “I’m just concerned with the money.”

Aldrich explained that she had considered asking the city’s Department of Public Works to complete the project, but the timing would be uncertain, as they are too busy to begin it this year.

“We can’t promise that we’re going to be back next year,” she said. “So the contractor, when they’re laying stuff now, they’re either going to have to tip it, with what’s there currently … or we’re going to have some big trip and falls.”

Council members voted unanimously to approve withdrawing the $99,225 from the major, local, and general fund, with the remainder coming from the DDA budget for First Street.

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