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Bemidji City Council: Work approved on Irvine Avenue

The Bemidji City Council has approved plans for the reconstruction of Irvine Avenue Northwest.

The council voted unanimously Monday night to approve the plans and specifications for the project and to begin advertising for bids.

Irvine Avenue is proposed to undergo reconstruction from Third Street Northwest to Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest. The project will include water main and sanitary sewer improvements.

The total cost is estimated at $3.2 million. The project received $1.6 million in federal stimulus funds. Other funding sources include municipal state aid funds, sanitary sewer funds and water utility funds.

An estimated $360,000 in city funds remains to be identified, but the council decided against designating the source. It had originally been suggested that the money come from liquor store profits, but City Manager John Chattin noted that the city could tap into its capital equipment fund. This fund has been designated for equipment purchases, but has not been used.

"If you want to preserve your liquor funds, that might be an alternate source," Chattin said.

The council decided to wait on designating funds until bids are received.

Once the final cost is known, the council will detail the budget plans.

The work on the sanitary sewer and water infrastructure will be welcome changes for residents, said City Engineer Craig Gray.

Mayor Richard Lehmann recalled this past winter when select homes along Irvine did not have water because pipes froze.

"There wasn't much we could do for them at that time," Lehmann said.

Gray said there were 10-12 homes affected by freezing.

"We will be able to address those issues," he said.

The project is proposed to be done in stages and is intended to minimize the impact to drivers and businesses.

Councilor Greg Negard asked how access to the U.S. Postal Service will be addressed.

Gray said staff will contact the post office to open a dialogue on the possibility of locating temporary drop boxes so customers would not have to cross Irvine Avenue.

He added that a "sub-phase" of the project will require the contractor to complete work from Third Street to Sixth Street in four weeks.

"There will be an inconvenience with the Post Office, but it will only be four weeks," he said.

Street light fee

The council voted to again table the third reading and possibly adoption of the proposed street light fee.

The proposed fee would assess $30 a year to residents and $60 a year to businesses to help cover the operations and maintenance costs of the city's street lights.

The council voted to table the issue until June 22.