RESIDENTS IN THE NORTHEAST Area of Clearwater listened with concern during Monday’s town hall meeting about the street reconstruction project. (Photos by Ken Francis.)

Council orders feasibility study

Staff Writer
Ken Francis
The Clearwater City Council Monday voted unanimously Monday to move ahead with a feasibility study for the Northeast Area Street Improvement project.
The decision came during the regular city council meeting that followed an hour-long town hall public meeting with about 25 residents in attendance.
During that meeting, Engineer Kevin Bittner of Bolton & Menk spoke about the condition of the roads, the water main, storm sewer, the scope of the project and its potential costs to the city and individual taxpayers.
The city held meetings last year to get input from residents to try to determine if and when a project should be done, and whether there were different options.
Since those meetings it was discovered the city’s watermain was in poor condition and needs to be replaced.
Bittner focused on that point Monday. He said Clearwater Maintenance Supervisor John Schmidt had to do a repair on a valve on Lime Street. 
“The watermain was dug up and exposed. At that location it was determined the watermain was suffering sever corrosion,” he said.
Two of three locations that were excavated showed deterioration of the watermain. Bittner said the city needs to consider a watermain improvement along with street improvements and storm sewer improvements.
“The streets are not in the greatest condition. As an engineer, we would rate them in poor condition overall,” he said. “Drainage overall is poor. That’s really contributing to the acceleration of the pavement deterioration with standing water on the edges of the pavement.
Months ago, there was discussion about scaling down the project to reclaim and overlay the streets in the project area, and/or patch certain areas as needed. Bittner said because of the deteriorating watermain, that was no longer an option because the streets have to be excavated.
“We don’t feel that we can do that. Considering that we found two spots of severe corrosion, we’re  probably looking at replacing the whole watermain,” he said. “It kind of throws those out as not being real viable options.”
Price Tag
Preliminary costs for the project are: Pavement reconstruction $2.4 million, curb & gutter $275,000,  storm sewer $450,000 and   watermain replacement $650,000, for a total of $3,775,000. 
Assessments to property owners would be $62 per front foot for the street, $12 per front foot for curb & gutter and $0.21 per square foot of lot area for storm sewer. Water service replacement would be $1,275 per service. There would be no assessment to property owners for replacing the watermain.
“These are just ballpark numbers,” said Bittner. “These numbers will be refined if the project continues. Ultimately, the actual costs will be determined by bidding the project.”
When the meeting was opened for public input, about half a dozen people spoke. Tom Boone from Prairie Street spoke first.
He said he believed not all of the watermain would be corroded, only those in clay soils. He said lots of the streets in Clearwater were on sandy soil.
“The rest is sugar sand and won’t be eroding,” he said. “It’s not necessary to tear that all out.”
He also said the individual water services didn’t have to be replaced.
“That’s ABS double walled,” he said. “It’s not going to wear out.”
Bittner said that’s something that would need to be evaluated during the project. 
Boone continued, saying people in the city were already paying too much and didn’t need another bill to pay.
“We just got bumped again with sewer and water. Now we’re going to get assessed again,” he said. “If you do this project you are going to have a lot of people go into foreclosure, just like that fiasco on Main Street.”
Curb & Gutter
Kim Nelson agreed if the watermain was bad, it needed to be replaced, and the streets above it.
But he was against installing curb and gutter.
“The roads are 40 years old. They’ve served their useful purpose. They need to be  repaired, resurfaced or replaced not because of standing water or not because of drainage issues,” he said. “That’s not the problem. They’re just worn out.”
He said the roads have worked fine without curb and gutter, and new roads could do the same.
Nelson agreed with Boone about people paying too much to live in Clearwater.
“One of the reasons it’s so hard to get people to move here is because it’s so expensive,” he said. “We have high property taxes, water, sewer, and now you’re  going to make it even more expensive. People aren’t going to want to live here.”
Vern Scott said he didn’t think any project should start in September, like Bittner’s timeline indicated.
“You don’t start a project like this is the fall. I’ve been in the construction business for 40 years and I’ve never seen a big project like this started in the fall.”
Bittner said it might not follow the schedule exactly. But it might be possible that small portion of the project could be completed in the fall.
“We would want to get back to pavement,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to leave something open.” 
Scott also asked how Bittner was going to do watermain work crossing Ash Street, which has already been reconstructed.
“We’ll have to evaluate what’s there,” said Bittner. “Those are details I don’t have right now.”
During the regular council meeting that followed, council members agreed to move ahead with the feasibility study, which will be presented to the council March 17.
Even with the study, there is no obligation by the city to move ahead with the project at a specific date.
Bittner said information in the study will essentially be usable at any time in the future unless the scope of the project changes. He said only the costs would have to be updated.
The cost of the feasibility study is $26,500.


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