City Hall file photo

CLINTON — A total of $3.6 million is what Clinton city leaders estimate it will cost to complete the long-awaited,19th Avenue North extension project. Finding the $3.6 million to fund it is what has stood in the way.

That was until Mayor Mark Vulich announced on Tuesday during a Committee of the Whole meeting, acting on information from the East Central Intergovernmental Association, the 19th Avenue North project is an ideal candidate for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant through the Iowa Department of Transportation.

"This is a positive opportunity that's before us," said City Administrator Jessica Kinser during the meeting. "We have a project that is shovel ready, has connectivity for transportation opportunities as well as to jobs, and from the consultation with ECIA, this project seems to fit the bill for a good applicant for the TIGER grant."

The grant, if awarded, would provide a 50 percent funding match — approximately $1.8 million — to the total estimated cost. With a surplus of federal Surface Transportation Program funding already backlogged for the project, it was estimated by Kinser the city would only be responsible for paying $800,000 of the total $3.6 million to complete 19th Avenue North's extension to U.S. 30.

It came as positive news to some, including Kinser and Vulich, but left questions of where the remaining $800,000 would come from for others.

"That $800,000 in city funds, where is that at, what are those funds, do we have those on hand?" Councilman John Rowland asked.

Kinser explained that while the city hadn't budgeted for the completion of the project this fiscal year, it had anticipated through the five-year Capital Improvement Plan that Fiscal Year 2017 would call for borrowing the funds through a general obligation loan to complete the expansion.

But, she added, with the potential to receive the TIGER grant, the project has potential to be completed next year and would free up future STP funds to move a project to widen Manufacturing Drive to a sooner-than-expected date.

In order to pursue the grant, the council unanimously approved a partnership with ECIA which will conduct the writing of the pre-application, due May 4, and finalize it before the June 5 deadline. That partnership will cost the city $5,000, expected to be paid over a two-year timeline from the Engineering Service Fund, which is currently not budgeted for a specific use.

"The Engineering Service Fund is a special revenue fund that accumulates permit revenues; curb cut permits, right-of-way permits and other permitting that is done by the Engineering Department," Kinser said. "At this point there wouldn't be any sort of contract arrangement that the council would need to approve with the ECIA, but before an application would be submitted a resolution of support would be needed from the city council."

In addition to funding, Phase III of the 19th Avenue North project also faced delays in land acquisition required for construction. That dilemma, too, was handled during Tuesday's city council meeting when the council unanimously approved the final property purchase of $34,000 for a parcel at 719 19th Ave. North.

With that approval, City Engineer Jason Craft said all the pieces are in place to demolish two remaining properties along the 19th Avenue corridor and prepare for a projected 2016 construction start date.

"It's changed hands several times, but this deal is complete," Craft said. "They've (719 19th Ave. North owners) settled on the appraised value and we've made all the necessary arrangements for the property acquisition to move forward the project. It should be scheduled for bid this September and, anything unforeseen, it should be constructed then next year."

According to archived data, the 19th Avenue North project has been a discussion of city leaders since as early as 1999. Not until 2007 did Clinton become aggressive in its approach to get the project funded, initially calling for a 2010 completion date.

After accepting a state stimulus, the city began Phase I of the project in 2009, quickly moving on to Phase II the following year, but reaching a halt in progress due to a lack of funding.

Since then, the city has struggled to find the financing necessary to continue with the project, which is why Vulich felt the opportunity to apply for the TIGER grant fit perfectly with the city's vision for the future.

"One of the things that scores high on (the TIGER grant), is this would be the last money in and the project is completed; it's not a build effort," Vulich said. "It would complete a project that links our tech park to a highway. It basically completes a piece of our puzzle to the traffic pattern around town. It should score high in their scoring process."

Assistant Editor Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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