Council gets rundown on 2 big projects

T-R PHOTOS BY JOE FISHER — Casey Byers, architect with Bolton and Menk, presents recommendations for the Downtown Implementation Plan to the City Council during a regular meeting on Monday.

A new fiscal year will start later this week and the Marshalltown City Council is weighing some big improvement projects coming in the near future.

The first to be discussed during Monday’s regular council meeting was repairs to the South Center Street viaduct. Dean Bierwagen, principal engineer with Stanley Consultants, highlighted the priorities for the bridge and some other improvements which were discovered during an analysis. The city can take on these fixes in phases or all at once.

“It’s a nice sized bridge. It’s a little over 1,703 feet long,” Bierwagen said. “Approximately 11,010 vehicles cross that bridge per day.”

The cost estimate to fix the priority items — which includes replacing the finger joints, deck drains, roller bearings and supports — is $1.5 million. The estimated time the bridge would be closed for repairs is four to six months.

Bierwagen said taking the “bare bones” option would give the city five to 10 years before needing to revisit it.

Police Chief Mike Tupper talks about the possibilities of expanding MPACT if the city receives a grant it will apply for from the Department of Justice.

Taking on all of the repairs Stanley Consultants identified — including repainting all beams and replacing railings — would add about $4 million to the project. The additional repairs could be held for a later date though, according to the engineer, but it would extend the life of the bridge for 20 to 25 years.

Next the council was briefed on the Downtown Implementation Plan. Bolton and Menk architect Casey Byers presented a summary of recommendations for parking, traffic control, pavement rehabilitation and streetscaping ideas broken down into eight phases.

“Ultimately, we want to provide achievable recommendations,” Byers said.

The first phase would include roadway and utility improvements, sidewalk work, adding bump-outs and landscape beds, improving pedestrian alleys and new crosswalks at State and Main streets at an estimated cost of $6.4 million.

More or better parking has been one of the more often cited wants of the public when the Downtown Implementation Plan has been publicly discussed. Council Member Gary Thompson asked Byers to dispel the idea that parking is limited downtown.

“We have tons of parking downtown,” Thompson said. “The distance you walk when you park at Walmart, you walk less downtown even if you don’t park in front of the business.”

“As the 2019 Master Plan identified 50 percent of the land downtown is dedicated to parking,” Byers responded. “This is a common perception in most communities, the lack of parking. A lot of it comes down to utilization. Some may not understand where free surface lot parking is.”

For the city to take on either of these large projects it will need to find room in its budget. After the previous two discussion items, City Administrator Jessica Kinser presented the city’s updated debt capacity so they may discuss General Obligation borrowing. This reflects the council’s recent commitment of $200,000 toward the South Sixth Street softball complex and other changes made since January.

The city is only allowed to borrow up to 5 percent of its total valuation according to Iowa Code.

In 1997, the council created a policy to not exceed 60 percent of its legal debt capacity. Council Member Mike Ladehoff, who was on the council at the time, explained the thinking behind this policy which he noted is self imposed and is not a law.

“We tried to cap it to show responsibility and to raise our bond rating,” Ladehoff said. “If the council decides to go up to 65 percent it could affect our bond rating. In other words we pay more to borrow more which means you borrow less.”

According to Kinser’s breakdown, the city is looking at more than $5 million in projects each fiscal year, exceeding the 60 percent policy.

Kinser informed the council staff will return with a menu of options on how to move forward with projects within the debt schedule at the next regular meeting on July 12.


Contact Joe Fisher at news@timesrepublican.com.


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