City may drop road project

The project to reconstruct the Business Loop East roadway is in danger of being canceled as property owners and City Council members complain about a lack of communication and information.

The project to reconstruct the Business Loop East roadway is in danger of being canceled as property owners and City Council members complain about a lack of communication and information.

Business Loop East, which runs past S&R Truck Plaza, Mac's and the South Stop 'N' Go, was removed from the state highway system when the U.S. Highway 281 Bypass was completed in 2000. However, the city lobbied the North Dakota Department of Transportation to provide funding to turn the country road into a city street, with curb and gutter, lighting and underground storm drainage. The change would bring that Interstate 94 entrance into Jamestown up to urban standards.

The project was scheduled for the 2011 construction season and up to $8 million was allocated for it.

"We had an agreement with the city that DOT would reconstruct the road one more time," said John Thompson, DOT district engineer in Valley City.

Harley Trefz, chairman of the city's planning commission, said the project was placed on the long-range list of state road projects.


As a special concession, NDDOT agreed to fund the project with only a 10 percent local share. Normally, the local share is 20 percent of a city road project.

"DOT would provide the money as though it was still one of their roads," Trefz said. "They'd upgrade the road at very little cost to the city and taxpayers."

And as long as the roadway was dug up for reconstruction, city staff felt it was the time to replace the sanitary sewer main. City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said the main, into which all the city's sanitary sewer lines empty, is about 55 years old.

"It is at the end of its useful life and it's already been slip-lined," he said. "We can't afford failure of the main sewer. The consequence of failure is 80 to 95 percent of the town is shut down. From an engineer's point of view, you would want the main to be as structurally sound as it could be."

Because of the opposition to the project by the property owners along Business Loop East, the City Council will consider a mill and overlay at its Public Works Committee meeting Nov. 24 rather than full reconstruction. A mill and overlay would leave the sanitary sewer main untouched. Mayor Clarice Liechty, who has pushed for improvement in the sanitary sewer system, said this may be the main sewer line "but we have much older sewer lines in town."

City Administrator Jeff Fuchs said replacing the sanitary sewer main is estimated at $1.3 million. It would be subject to a citywide special assessment because it is the main.

The mayor said she sympathizes with the property owners who don't know how much they will be expected to pay on the road project and infrastructure costs. She added there needs to be better communication on the project. Speaking for the property owners, Dr. Gary Pearson agrees. He said 18 of the property owners want the reconstruction project dropped.

"A major concern of ours is an absence of information on the project," said Pearson, owner of Prairie Veterinary Hospital. "We're supposed to approve this project when we don't know what it's going to cost us and what the impact will be. We're very upset at the way things are being handled."


But a large part of the problem is the City Council has made no decisions on any portion of the project. The council hasn't even decided whether to continue with it and has until Dec. 15 to do so. Should the council choose to cancel the project, NDDOT has said it will use the funding for another project on its list. The city would be out about $225,000 in accumulated engineering costs.

"When you look at a federal aid project like this, there shouldn't be a question on proceeding -- you go forward," Schwartzkopf said. "I've never been in this type of situation. I've never seen a project of this magnitude stopped at this point."

Should the City Council choose to go ahead with the reconstruction project, splitting up the 10 percent local share is another decision it can make.

"The normal city share is 10 percent (or half of the usual 20 percent local share)," Fuchs said. "So as an option, the City Council could choose to pay the whole cost of the local share of the reconstruction."

Reconstruction of the frontage road would be done with 80 percent DOT funding and 20 percent as the local share. The local share, including a sidewalk, is estimated at between $120,000 and $148,000, Fuchs said.

"The frontage road benefits the property owners directly, but the cost depends on what they want done," he said. "And even there, the City Council could vote to pick up a larger share."

Schwartzkopf, who was not involved in the decision made years ago to do the project, said there's a massive amount of documentation and information available at City Hall for anyone who wants to go look at it. At this point, no one seems to know what should happen next.

"Trying to figure out what the community wants at this point is a nightmare," he said.


Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at

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