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Officials analyzing Main Avenue options

Bob Walton, district engineer for the North Dakota Department of Transportation Fargo office, told West Fargo City Commissioners Monday night that the overall Main Avenue reconstruction project is "on schedule and doing very well," with the exception of one phase that is presently under scrutiny - how to proceed with construction on the Main Avenue bridge over the Sheyenne River at 6th Street West, after some difficulties with soil conditions have necessitated a reassessment.

Original plans involved proceeding with a box culvert but Walton said that contractor Industrial Builders had requested not to proceed with the culvert because of unstable soil conditions, suggesting instead to install a bridge.

Walton said they are still in the middle of that evaluation noting the cost of a short bridge is estimated at $4 million dollars, a price tag he said is "unacceptable." The cost of the culvert is $1.1 million.

He said officials are presently analyzing another option, a two-span bridge at a cost of approximately $2.4 million, which could be in line because of additional costs that might have to be incurred if crews go ahead with the culvert and have to deal with expenses related to stabilizing the soil.

He said if a bridge is the route selected, it could be realized yet this construction season; however, if crews continue with the culvert and the existing situation, it more than likely could not be completed until next year, adding it "would be unacceptable to have Main Avenue torn up" for that amount of time.

"We do acknowledge that the soils are difficult to construct in" stating that officials are checking to see if the conditions have changed since initial reviews were completed for the project. "We are working with your city engineers for recommendations, and I can assure you there won't be any surprises as we move ahead," Walton said, noting that a decision should be arrived at soon. "We do have a contract, so it doesn't just end," a reference to the fact that a decision needs to be worked out because of the tight deadline. October 17 has been set as the completion date for this first phase of Main Avenue reconstruction which extends from 6th Avenue West to 5th Avenue East.

Whether a culvert or bridge ends up being the final choice, Walton told commissioners the city's cost share would remain the same at ten percent. When asked how difficult it would be to get the additional monies to the bridge instead of the culvert, Walton said "the chief engineer has been involved with this new strategy and nobody has raised a red flag and told them to stop, so that is encouraging. He said the new fiscal year also begins Oct. 1, so that is when the "new money kicks in,"adding it's likely funding would be there.

Walton said he will keep the commission and city officials updated as the plans move forward.

Commissioners also finally laid the status of the golf course contribution agreement to rest, after learning that Westport Beach Development officials had finally signed the agreement Friday, July 17, officially taking the city out of the mix. The first agreement had been approved by the commission at their Dec. 15, 2008 meeting with the city set to build the course. After considerable citizen protest, a second revised agreement was entered into in May of this year for the developers to proceed with the course, but that contract had remained unsigned since that time.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad had asked that the item be placed on the agenda for clarification and finalization to ensure that the city would not be liable for any terms of the contract because it had remained unsigned.

City Attorney Brian Neugebauer said the contract had indeed been signed and executed with the second agreement making the first one void.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said he had been in contact with the developers and they are working on securing financing to begin with the course. "They hope to be able to get financing and start construction next year. We (the city) have no further risk if more bills are incurred," he said.

In other action, the commission:

-approved a five-year remodeling exemption for Jeff Eberhardt, 3605 2nd St. E., who completed remodeling on his home qualifying him for the break. The value of his home increased from $152,800 to $212,400, resulting in a $1,184 tax savings per year, running from 2010-2014;

-okayed two renaissance zone application requests from Dave Paulson, the first for expansion of his Dave's Tire & Service, Inc. building at 1225 Main Ave. E. and the second a lease application. The expansion will include a 60x40 sq. ft. addition onto the existing building. In addition, the face of the building will be completely redone, and landscaping will be added to the north side facing Main Avenue and trees to the west side of the property, which is owned by Paulson Enterprises LLP, with Dave's Tire as the lease holder;

-approved second reading on rezoning from agricultural to rural real estate district and final plat approval of Selberg's 4th addition;

-gave final plat approval to: Westport Beach 6th Addition; Eagle Run Plaza 3rd Addition; and Eagle Run Plaza 4th Addition;

-okayed a conditional use permit to increase the size of two development signs to promote Christianson's 1st Addition;

-awarded the bid for Sewer and Water Improvement District No. 1216, Knutson's 1st/Gateway 2nd Additions to Dakota Underground, Fargo, with a low bid of $1,157,618.75;

-created a new Street Improvement District No. 2208 in advance of agreeing to proceed with plans and specifications and advertising for bids for work on the Lodoen Community Center parking lot. The West Fargo School District will be paying for all the costs assessed to this project. This work was originally intended as phase I of District No. 2207 but commissioners agreed to split it out to avoid any confusion.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, August 3, in the Commission Chambers at West Fargo City Hall. A budget meeting will immediately follow the regular meeting. All sessions are open to the public.