City forges ahead on levee work: Project proceeds without Army Corps

Gazette photo by Missy Lacher
Chuck Dougherty, left, owner of The Water Street Inn, Stillwater City Councilman Mike Polehna, Kevin Kerkvliet of Pink Boats for Hope and Vienette Erickson, far right, of Tradewind Spice Co. and IBA, watch Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki, second from right, cut the ribbon Tuesday evening at the Lowell Park riverfront gazebo.

The Stillwater City Council decided Tuesday that the city will move forward with phase three of the Lowell Park levee project without the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pending the feedback from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar Office about the Army Corps stance on the delayed project.

“This project has drug on for 20 years,” said Ward 4 Councilman Michael Polehna. “They (the Army Corps of Engineers) lie to us and to me what’s important is protecting our downtown area.”

Public Works Director Shawn Sanders said phase three of the levee project is mostly finished with the irrigation system, relocation of power poles, opening the gazebo and finishing the plaza. The Army Corps was scheduled to begin work on an underground storm sewer this fall.

Sanders said the city could begin storm sewer work as soon as mid-October. The storm sewer, parking lots and dealing with soil contamination would be involved in the estimated $1.6 million total cost to the city.

The city has TIF funds available in Districts 1 and 4 for the project along with $185,000 in state Department of Natural Resources grants and $200,000 in a levy fund.

“The project could be completed without cost to the taxpayer and we most likely would not have to go into (district) 4. This was reaffirmed last year and would not result in tax increases to complete the project,” said City Administrator Larry Hansen.

Though Sanders said bids would have to be solicited, the cost of the storm sewer is estimated at $525,000. Parking lot improvements would cost $575,000 and parking lot E will cost $175,000. The worst-case scenario estimate for soil contamination is $300,000, but that cost is unknown until work starts on the project.

Sanders said the project could begin this fall since staff is available to complete the sewer and amphitheater grading.  Sanders believes that the storm sewer work would take about one to two months. The parking lots could be completed in spring and only one parking lot would be worked on at a time to minimize downtown traffic disruption. He added that the only concern would be an early winter.

“I think with these guys that we’re wasting our time,” said Ward 1 Councilman Doug Menikheim about the Army Corps of Engineers. “It’s time to cut the bait and go to work.”