Archive for Thursday, December 28, 2006

Funding questions delay De Soto Road decision

December 28, 2006

Lansing City Council members have tabled a resolution initiating the first segment of the expansion of De Soto Road to allow more time to determine the source of the city's share of the project's funding.

But time is tight because the bill that earmarked $2 million in federal funds for the roadwork will expire after 2009, and there's no guarantee the funds will be available after that.

The potential construction is part of a larger project to widen De Soto Road to four lanes from Eisenhower Road to 4-H Road, but the initial segment - between Mary to Ida streets - could require as much as $400,000 in design and engineering costs to initiate.

The federal grant may not be used for design costs, so the council must now decide whether to pursue the project and find potential sources for funding or risk losing the federal grant. The total cost of the project is projected at $6.5 million, of which the city would pay just more than $4 million.

Council members at their Dec. 21 meeting expressed concern that the initial design costs would place extraordinary burden on the city's finances. Some, like Council member Kenneth Ketchum, expressed surprise that the total cost for the expansion of De Soto Road from Mary Street to Eisenhower Road could approach $20 million.

But John Young, director of public works, said the price tag was higher in developed areas because of right of way costs and the expenses in relocating utilities.

"It's pretty typical of an expansion of any road in a developed area," Young said.

Traffic volume has been steadily increasing along De Soto Road over the past several years, Young said, but traffic congestion was a lesser concern in the matter.

"I think the larger concern is the longer we wait, if there's more development along the road, then it becomes more expensive for land acquisition," Young said. "But that's in line with everything else. All costs go up the longer you wait. Construction costs will be higher five, 10 years from now than they are today."

William Lundberg, city finance director, said though it was too early to comment on the potential financial impact that initiating the project would have on the city's coffers, it was possible the city could find other funding for the project.

"I think the best example of that recently has been the Main Street Enhancement Project, where grants were available," Lundberg said. "That's certainly one major way that cities finance major infrastructure improvements. On big projects sometimes there is a local matching share."

Lundberg said potential scenarios were being projected but nothing could be fully determined until after the council decided how it would proceed.

"It's just too early now to say anything substantive on that because the project is still being scaled by the council and the timing of the project is under consideration," he said.

The council tabled the resolution for discussion at its work session Jan. 11.

In other action, the council:

¢ Approved, 7-0, with Council member Dave Trinkle absent, minutes from the council's Nov. 16 regular meeting and its Nov. 30 special meeting.

¢ Heard a presentation of a certificate of appreciation to Kristyn Russell, a Lansing High School student who assisted with the Mayor's Christmas Tree program.

¢ Heard a presentation by Ken Miller, the city's Main Street project liaison, on the Main Street System Enhancement project. Miller outlined plans to contact Main Street businesses in January to help them plan for interference from roadwork in 2007.

¢ Approved, 5-2, with Council members Dee Hiniger and Janette Labbee-Holdeman dissenting, a request for a special use permit for 1536 Southern Hills Terrace. The permit allows resident Kristina Pilloni to continue offering foster services for cats. Currently, Pilloni said, two dogs, 11 personal cats and eight foster cats are in her care at the residence.

¢ Approved, 7-0, the reappointments of Tim King, Richard O'Donnell, Bryan Pettis, Richard Pitts and John Warner to the Parks and Recreation Board for terms expiring Dec. 31, 2008.

¢ Approved, 7-0, the reappointment of John Bennett and Dale Bohannon to the Tree Board for terms expiring Dec. 31, 2009.

¢ Approved, 7-0, issuing cereal malt beverage licenses to TFT LLC, doing business as Daniel's Bar-B-Q, Petro Deli No. 2, WKRP Management LLC - Pizza Hut, and Charles R. Wood Oil Co. Inc.

¢ Approved, 7-0, a resolution establishing signatories for the city's accounts and investments at Commerce Bank.

¢ Approved, 7-0, a hearing for proposed amendments to the city's 2006 budget. The amended budget requires no additional property taxes and largely contains intrafund transfers, according to a memo from finance director William Lundberg.

¢ Approved, 7-0, adopting the proposed amended 2006 city budget.

¢ Approved, 6-1, with Council member Harland Russell dissenting, a contract for professional services with Design Energy Group. The group will perform onsite inspection and engineering services on the school bond issue projects for the city at a cost of $75,000 plus expenses. The contract price will be paid for by permit fees. Council member Russell raised several questions about the liability of the inspector in the event of structural inconsistencies.

¢ Approved, 7-0, an addition to the Lansing Technical Specifications and Design Criteria for Public Improvements. The addition prohibits new, potentially hazardous fixed objects, such as masonry planters and entrance headwalls, from being located too close to the edge of collector and arterial streets.

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