Proposed street improvement area in Clearwater

Street project open house draws a crowd

Staff Writer
Ken Francis


If the Clearwater City Council intends to approve a road project in the north part of town in 2014, it probably won’t be with the support of many affected property owners.
Last Thursday, a contingent of property owners from the area gathered at Clearwater City Hall for an open house to learn more about proposed road improvements in their part of town.
Thursday’s meeting, considered an informal preliminary get-together,  was also a chance for residents to give input about the condition of their streets and what they felt should be done.
Most of the conversation on the part of property owners focused on the high cost they would be paying in assessments for the project. Many felt it wasn’t the right time to be burdening taxpayers with an even higher bill for streets that were still usable.
“It’s the same fight we had seven years ago,” said Kim Nelson, who did much of the speaking for the group of property owners. “I don’t want a $2.75 million road project. It’s unnecessary.”
Nelson said he knocked on lots of doors in the proposed project area and got the same response - that people didn’t want a big, expensive road project.
The project dates back to 2006, after the city completed Main and Ash streets. Back then, the council discussed continuing to do projects over the next few years. The northern section was split into three phases to be done over time. But because of the failing economy and high cost, property owners turned out en masse at city hall to stop the project from moving forward.
Although the project has been included in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for years, the council has not moved ahead with it because of the cost.
But because of the deterioration of some of the roads, the issue has come back as a discussion item at council meetings on and off for the past few years. 
Earlier this year, the council discussed ways of prolonging the life of some of the streets by crack-filling and overlays. But some council members and Maintenance Supervisor John Schmidt said some of the streets are in too poor a condition to continue to patch.
Photos of some of those areas were on display at the open house, and engineer Kevin Bittner of Bolton & Menk explained the condition of the streets, the scope of the proposed improvements and a rough estimate of assessments to property owners.
The project would include street reconstruction ($62 per front foot); curb & gutter ($11.60 per foot); storm sewer ($0.21 per square foot) and $1,275 to repair each home’s water service connections.
Schmidt said the water line connections to the street main have been failing in recent years.
“We’ve had problem with the curb stop over the last 10 years. We’ve been doing a few a year,” he said. “Where the connections are on the inside of the curb stop, they’re corroding and we’re having leaks.”
The estimated assessment for a 60’x100’ property would be $6,951. A 100’x100’ lot would pay $10,735 and a 150’x150’ lot would pay $17,040.
Nelson said one of the reasons people are concerned is because every time there is a road project, it includes storm sewer and curb and gutter, which only adds to the cost.
“They don’t have a lot of faith in the city council or any of this all-or-nothing curb and gutter, storm sewer, holding pond concept that you and the council have,” he said. “It’s unnecessary. It’s unwanted and that’s how most of the people who live here feel.”
Nelson said people understand that some of the roads have problems, but the solution isn’t to tear everything up and do an expensive project.
“Fix the spots that need fixing,” he said. “We were told seven years ago by engineers like yourself that our roads were worn out and wouldn’t last another year or two. Seven years later they’re still here and still usable. It’s low traffic volume, local traffic only, and I just think that people are tired of the same old fight.”
Bittner said he wasn’t there to fight and wasn’t Street Continued On Page 2
there to sell a project. He was just providing information and asking for input.
“I think that’s why the city council wanted to have this meeting. We want to get your input,” he said. “If that’s your feeling, that will give the council direction on what they tell us as an engineer to do.”
The council will have the opportunity to review results from the open house before making a decision whether to move forward with any type of project.
Should they decide to do a project, the next step would be to authorize a feasibility study.


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