CLINTON — The Clinton City Council has accepted a City Services Committee recommendation to approve an updated street projects list for fiscal year 2008-2009.

During a recent council committee of the whole meeting, City Administrator Gary Boden said that up until now, the city has focused on what can be done within the fiscal year, which is “awkward” because the construction season cuts the fiscal year in half. He said that in the future, the city likely will talk about projects on a construction season basis, with regular updates to the council on the progress of the projects. He provided the council a detailed chart listing upcoming projects, dividing projects by status including those in the design phase, those in the construction phase and potential projects. He said the council can use the chart as a planning document, as it is a step in compiling an integrative three-, five- and 10-year capital improvement program.

Boden remarked that the $943,000 South 18th Street project, from Second Avenue South to Eighth Avenue South, is approximately 98 percent complete, while improvements in the area of Fifth Avenue and Second Street, estimated to cost $664,000 and listed in the chart at approximately 96 percent complete, are “almost done.” He said the 22nd Avenue North Sewer Separation project, estimated to cost $1.5 million, is about 85 percent complete, while the estimated $4.6 million 13th to 15th Avenue North Sewer Separation project is nearly 60 percent complete.

Boden noted the 26th Avenue North Storm Sewer project, estimated to cost $70,000 to install from North 11th Street to Eagle Heights Elementary, is approximately 25 percent completed.

He then reviewed projects listed in the design phase, including an estimated $615,000 project to repair South 14th Street from Bluff Boulevard to 12th Avenue South, scheduled to be completed this fall. He noted the construction of Phases one through three of LaMetta Wynn Drive, estimated to cost $724,200, is scheduled for completion in September, while the $1.5 million lane widening project on Manufacturing Drive is being planned for completion in June 2009. He said work on Prospect Avenue, from South 14th Street to 23rd Place and estimated to cost $775,000, will be under construction next year and is scheduled for completion in September 2009, along with Phase one of the $1.4 million Mississippi River Trail project between Clinton and Camanche. Boden said Phase Two, Stage One of the Liberty Square Project, estimated to cost a total of $17 million, is scheduled for completion in October 2010. He stated the first phase of the 19th Avenue North Extension project, from Mill Creek Parkway to Springdale Drive and estimated to cost $1.2 million, is slated to be complete in April 2009, followed by the estimated $2.5 million Phase Two from Springdale Drive to Randall Court in October 2009 and the $2.8 million Phase Three from Randall Court to North Second Street to be completed in October 2010.

Regarding the South 18th Street project, Second Ward Councilman Mike Kearney said he had been receiving complaints from residents in the neighborhood about work to be done by Qwest to move some lines in the area. He said the work was not completed last fall and it has been hard to get Qwest moving on the project this spring. He asked Boden and City Attorney Paul Walter to put some heat on Qwest to get the work done. Kearney added that some residents have expressed their displeasure with the contouring of their yards following construction work in the corridor, saying the issue “needs some attention.” Boden replied that he believes that is the reason the project has not been closed out yet and speculated that some of the landscaping work had not been done because of the wet spring. He said he hopes the work can be done within the next month.

First Ward Councilman Bob Soesbe stated he thinks it has been six years since the city received a petition to pave Prospect Avenue. Soesbe said the project got “lost in the shuffle” the past couple of years, but got back on the project list last year. He said he is happy to see the Prospect Avenue project back on the list for next year and stated he hopes it doesn’t get pushed back again. Boden said that is one of the reasons the list is being compiled and noted the Prospect Avenue Project is being designed by McClure Engineering. He said the project would be bid this winter with construction to begin at the first opportunity next year and hopefully would be complete in the fall of 2009.

Soesbe also commented that in his opinion, the city should not spend money on unimproved streets. He said if citizens want a dirt street improved, an assessment should be done to pave the road. Soesbe said that one of the problems the city has is that in the last 20 years, the city only seal coated streets and now repeatedly fills potholes. He said he hates to see the city spend money on improving streets and reiterated that if residents want streets improved, they should file a petition, have an assessment and put in curbs and gutters. Boden said questions remain regarding how to prioritize street construction and reconstruction. He noted that as discussed in a recent City Services Committee meeting, approximately 85 percent of the streets in Clinton have deteriorated to the point where major repairs are no longer adequate and complete reconstruction is needed. He said a lot of cities are struggling with road repairs and reconstruction and commented that “wear and tear” on infrastructure has never been adequately funded. He said officials are asking the state to increase taxation for improvements to infrastructure expected to cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Boden said that while the state hasn’t “stepped up yet,” the city of Clinton fortunately has some more money streaming into the community and said that with better fiscal management and prioritization, the city may be able to be more effective, though it will take many years to resolve the problem. He said the challenge will be to identify the city’s priorities, which will include some hard choices whether to fix residential streets or main thoroughfares used by the general public, and what to fix first, “because they’re all a mess.” Boden said he thinks the evaluation program will help in the process, which gives the council a detail of the projects in the design and construction phases so council members can judge the progress of the projects.

Soesbe said that seeing the list reinforced his belief that Mayor Rodger Holm’s idea to push the state legislature to allow the city to do a local option sales tax is a good idea.

“With the cost of fuel at four dollars a gallon, another penny or two isn’t going to kill anybody, but it would give us a big incentive, a big help in fixing streets,” Soesbe said. Holm noted that calculations show a penny local tax could garner the city an estimated $290,000 extra each year to be spent on road improvements. Following the discussion, the council approved a motion to accept the updated street projects list.

Later in the agenda, the Committee of the Whole forwarded an Internal Operations Committee recommendation to restructure positions in the Finance and Administration Departments. The changes include separating the City Clerk and Treasurer positions, making Neels the finance director at her current pay status and creating a separate city clerk position in the Administration Department to be filled by Assistant City Clerk Pat Van Loo at a managerial salary of $40,000 effective June 1. Another change will upgrade Senior Administrative Specialist Vicki Manley to the position of executive administrative assistant, and include duties of the assistant city clerk, at a managerial salary of $40,000 effective June 1. The council approved a motion to prepare ordinance amendments to facilitate the personnel changes.