Council reviews North Highland project

NEW ULM – The New Ulm City Council accepted the preliminary feasibility report during its Tuesday meeting for the proposed North Highland Avenue Improvement project, which seeks to do major roadway work on the road’s length from Highway 14 to County Road 29 in 2014.

The project seeks to turn the gravel road into a bituminous road with concrete curb and gutters. While heading from Highway 14 to County Road 29 on North Highland, the left side will gain a concrete sidewalk while the right side will maintain the existing bike trail. Some landscaping around the road is planned.

The project is another piece of New Ulm’s long term goal to have a transportation corridor from Center Street to Broadway Street at the northern edge of town.

The roadway improvement portion of the project is expected to cost $1.85 million. To fund the project, the City will have $576,000 in federal aid available and another $1.274 million from the City’s Municipal State Aid account.

However, despite the road portion likely to be covered without cost to New Ulm taxpayers, the report notes that the City still has to determine how it wants to approach the cost and work is needed to develop a stormwater treatment pond in order to meet federal, state and local stormwater regulations. The report outlined three options available for the City:

First, the City could create a large centralized facility with a setup that would treat 80 percent of the watershed area. This option would cost $910,981.

The proposal would be a “dry pond” that only fills up on occasion when large amounts of excessive water is deposited in it. The “dry pond” approach is suggested to avoid FAA concerns and regulations with standing water becoming a home to birds, which would be a problem for aircraft. The “dry pond” would have a sand layer at the bottom and a series of underdrains that would filter the storm water.

The benefit of this proposal is that it would provide treatment for the entire upstream watershed, it would likely use less land area than the other options, and future maintenance would be only at one location. The drawbacks are that a large land parcel would be taken off the tax rolls, the facility would be expensive to build, and the cost of maintaining it would be on the City unless a stormwater district is created.

Second, the report proposed the same idea but with a regional treatment pond that treats 100 percent of the watershed. The plan would additionally utilize an existing small stormwater pond at 23rd North Street as a “pre-treatment site” that removes grit and sediment.

This option utilizes existing City property to save some time and cost involved with land acquisition, but it is more expensive since excavation and dirt disposal is necessary to reform the site into an acceptable design.

Finally, the report offers an option close to the road that only treats exclusively the runoff from the road itself. An business that sets up along this area would then be required to build its own stormwater treatment measures.

The plan utilizes existing treatment ponds along the route of the road and adds two new ponds. It would minimally meet the requirements of the treating the first one inch of runoff, with the rest being discharged into the existing storm sewer system.

This proposals would be smaller and reduce the need for time purchases. However, it would require timely maintenance such as weeding and it would be to the disadvantage of potential private developers.

Regarding funding available, the State Aid funding is typically available to 100 percent stormwater collection systems. Stormwater treatment ponds eligibility to funding is subject to the final MnDOT review of the design plans. MnDOT State Aid has a minimum participation rate of treating 55 percent of the runoff to be eligible for any possible funds.

The report recommends the plan that treats 100 percent of the stormwater in the pond. It notes the plan offers further eligibility options for state funding and better handling of the treatment regulation. The Council was generally supportive of this plan, though it will make its final determination at later date.

In other business, the Council approved the Conditional Use Permit for M.R. Paving and Excavating, Inc. for its takeover of the New Ulm compost and burn site. The business is seeking to take over the site through a lease with the City to be able to sell the compost at a price and gain new display area for its own products.

The permit is the last step required before the City proceed with the signing of the lease to give M.R. Paving control for five years. No date has been announced yet for the official signing.

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