The way things are going, it’s possible that the city of Waconia could only be on the hook for raising $100,000 of the $11.1 million needed for a proposed improvement project for part of the Highway 5 corridor in Waconia.
The project includes new roadway from Olive Street to west of Oak Avenue and will feature a divided roadway, trails on both sides of the highway, pedestrian lighting, an underpass near Oak Avenue, intersection modifications to Maple Street, stormwater and utility improvements and a traffic signal at Cherry Street.
Officials expect the project to create jobs, improve safety and even spur residential growth.
“Our goal is to create an urban parkway look and feel rather than a state trunk highway when it’s finished,” said City Administrator Susan Arntz, who provided information about the project during a presentation at the Waconia City Council meeting on Monday, July 1 and through a related press release.
According to the press release, MnDOT — in partnership with the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) — has awarded $4.5 million to the city for its Highway 5 Improvement Project planned for 2015. The funding was awarded under the Transportation Economic Development Program (TED) to support growing businesses and improve the transportation network in the area.
TED was one of two grants — the other being from the Corridor Investment Management Strategy (CIMS) program — the city pursued in April. The city could only receive funds from one program, not both.
According to the release, the Waconia grant will leverage $10 million in added market value, more than $20 million in construction, and more than 360 jobs in local businesses in the community as a result of the project.
The added market value could be created through projects under consideration such as expansions at Ridgeview Medical Center and Good Samaritan as well as the sale and development of the lot adjacent to The Ground Round on the northwest corner of Cherry Street and Highway 5.
“We are really proud to be able to partner with the community, with MnDOT, with Carver County and some of our other related partners to try to make this project move forward,” Arntz said.
MnDOT and DEED received 25 applications requesting $73 million in funding. The Waconia project was one of five projects funded, and one of only two in the metro area. Project selections were based on consistency with transportation plans, economic benefits, project financing and project readiness.
Arntz said the Waconia project ranked #1 among all of the applications and officials were not asked to reduce the scale of the project or make major changes, which is something of a rarity for this type of process.
MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben were quoted in the press release talking about the benefits of investing in projects such as the Highway 5 project in Waconia.
“Transportation investments support jobs, create vibrant communities and position businesses for the global economy,” Zelle said. “MnDOT’s partnership with DEED and the business community through the TED program has seen great results in promoting economic development all across the state.”
“TED is an innovative program that recognizes highway construction projects often stimulate business growth in communities,” Clark Sieben added. “This latest round of funding will generate new jobs and economic development projects in Minnesota.”
In the addition to the TED grant, the Waconia project funding includes $2.8 million from MnDOT (funds that were initially earmarked for mill and overlay work on Highway 5 in 2015) and $1.9 million in city funding, with the majority coming from Municipal State Aid money along with Utility and Capital Improvement Funds.
“We are really excited to have 60 percent or more of the project funded by others,” Arntz told the council.
City officials are hoping to secure another $702,000 through a Cooperative Agreement with MnDOT, meaning that if all goes well, the city’s main financial task could be raising a $100,000 private contribution.
As for raising that contribution, the city will pursue a variety of options, some of which are quite creative. For example, citizens can give to the cause via a donation bucket at city hall.
“(We) ask everyone in our community to help us change Highway 5,” said Arntz, who told how members of the Waconia Chamber of Commerce donated $87.10 in less than an hour towards the contribution after hearing about the project at the chamber meeting on June 27.
In addition to city hall, the donation bucket will appear at the city’s Carver County Fair and Nickle Dickle Day booths. Businesses interested in having a bucket at their location may contact city hall. Other more traditional methods, such as accepting right-of-way donations, will also be utilized to raise the contribution.
Because the grant programs are reimbursement programs, it’s possible that the city may have to issue bonds for the project, but city officials will review the scenarios and refine those plans in the coming months. Arntz said that a lot of work remains to be done but she believes it will be a really great project when it’s finished.
Mayor Jim Nash thanked Arntz and the rest of the city staff for its work on the project.
“I know we’ve been talking about it at council level for many years but my personal thanks and congratulations for the work that we’ve gotten done here. It’s fabulous,” he said. “It is more than just a couple of things here and there that we’re addressing. We’re really taking on a major problem in our part of Highway 5, so this is great.”
In other matters:
• At the meeting, Nash read a proclamation that designated July 1, 2013 as Dueber’s Day in Waconia in recognition of the Dueber family for its 67 years of business in Waconia and the surrounding communities.
Chuck Dueber and others associated with the business were present, including Genie Dueber, Diane Notermann and Rita Menzel. After the proclamation, Chuck Dueber spent a few moments talking about the business, how it had changed over the years, and its legacy. Over the years, the store was located in 55 different communities. Dueber said they always tried to differentiate the business from other variety stores and the first 63 years were pretty successful but the final four were a bit more challenging.
Dueber said Waconia always stood out compared to the other communities they operated in.
Several council members expressed their appreciation for the business and the Dueber family for its community involvement. Several shared memories about shopping at the store and reminisced about their introduction to the various phrases that expressed the notion “If you can’t find it at Dueber’s, you don’t need it.” Councilor Lynn Ayers commented that Dueber’s was an icon in Waconia and would be sorely missed.
• Assistant City Administrator Shane Fineran reported that the city received two grants, the Xcel Energy Solar Rewards for $59,850 and Xcel Minnesota Bonus Incentive Program for $98,154, which will allow for the installation of a solar energy collection system on the Ice Arena that will provide power to the facility and back to the grid at no cost to the city. The system is expected to be installed by December 2013. Council members were pleased to receive the update, especially since the project will be completely funded at no expense to the city.
• July is National Parks & Recreation Month and features the theme “I (heart) my Park and Recreation.” The city is offering ways for citizens to show their love for parks and recreation through several events and a poster activity. To learn more, visit the city’s website at www.waconia.org and click on the link.
• The next Movie in the Park event — featuring “Brave” — will be held at City Square Park at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19. In lieu of an admission fee, attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the Waconia United Food Shelf. Bring a lawn chair or blanket; concessions available. In case of rain, the event will be held at Safari Island.
• A Women’s Beginner Archery course will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at Lake Waconia Regional Park on Saturday, July 20. The cost is $11 per participant. One must be 18 or older to participate.
• A Parent and Child Full Moon Canoe event will be held at Lake Waconia Regional Park from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 21. Enjoy a leisurely paddle on Lake Waconia as Outdoor Instructors lead you on an exploration of the lake. While preliminary instruction will be provided, this event is not an instructional program. The cost is $10 per participant and children must be 8 or older. All paddle equipment will be provided. Attendees may bring their own headlamps and/or flashlights.
• The council’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 15.
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]